July 20, 2009
Apollo 11 Crew Calls For US Visit To Mars
During a public reunion of the first crew to ever set foot on the surface of the Moon, the legendary astronauts of Apollo 11 called on the US to aim for Mars as a new venue for manned exploration.
Speaking from the National Air and Space Museum on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins addressed the importance of their mission which acted as a "diversion" during the tense political atmosphere of the Cold War.
"It was the ultimate peaceful competition: USA versus USSR. It was intense," said Armstrong, who became the first to step onto the Moon.
"It did allow both sides to take the high road, with the objectives of science and learning and exploration."
"Eventually, it provided a mechanism for engendering co-operation between former adversaries. In that sense, among others, it was an exceptional national investment for both sides," he added.
Aldrin said the mission is a "symbol of what a great nation and a great people can do if we work hard, work together and have strong leaders with vision and determination."
He went on to make the case for a manned mission to the red planet.
"The best way to honor and remember all those who were part of the Apollo program is to follow in our footsteps; to boldly go again on a new mission of exploration."
"America, do you still dream a great dream? Do you still believe in yourself?" he went on to ask. "I call on the next generation and our political leaders to give this answer: Yes We Can!"
Collins also voiced his support for a future mission to Mars.
"Sometimes I think I flew to the wrong place. Mars was always my favorite as a kid and it still is today," said Collins.
"I worry that the current emphasis on returning to the Moon will cause us to become ensnared in a technological briar patch needlessly delaying for decades the exploration of Mars - a much more worthwhile destination."
About 500 people, including NASA's to-be administrator Charles Bolden, attended the event.
The Apollo 11 crew is scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama on Monday to discuss the future of US space exploration.
Image Caption: Photograph of Martian Sunset taken from the Gusev crater. NASA
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