THE first astronauts to walk on the moon want United States President Barack Obama to aim for a new goal: Mars.
Early this morning (Singapore time), the Apollo 11 crewmen, fresh from a Washington lecture on Sunday where two of them expressed concerns about NASA getting bogged down on the moon, are meeting Obama at the White House.
In one of their few joint public appearances, the crew of Apollo 11 spoke on the eve of the 40th anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon, but didn’t get soggy with nostalgia. They instead spoke about the future and the more distant past.
On Sunday night, a packed crowd at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum – 7,000 people applied in a lottery for 485 seats – didn’t get the intimate details of the Eagle’s landing on the moon with little fuel left, or what the moon looked like, or what it felt like to be there.
They got second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin’s pitch for Mars. He said the best way to honor the Apollo astronauts “is to follow in our footsteps; to boldly go again on a new mission of exploration.”
First man on the moon Neil Armstrong only discussed Apollo 11 for about 11 seconds. He gave a professorial lecture titled “Goddard, Governance and Geophysics,” looking at the inventions and discoveries that led to his historic “small step for a man” on July 20, 1969.
Armstrong said the space race was “the ultimate peaceful competition: USA versus USSR. It did allow both sides to take the high road with the objectives of science and learning and exploration.”
Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins, who circled the moon alone while Armstrong and Aldrin walked on it, said the moon was not interesting, as distinct from Mars.
“Sometimes I think I flew to the wrong place. Mars was always my favorite as a kid and it still is today,” Collins said. “I’d like to see Mars become the focus, just as John F. Kennedy focused on the moon.”
The man who founded and directed Mission Control Houston, Christopher Kraft Jr, also jumped on the go-somewhere-new, do-something-different bandwagon.
“What we need is new technology; we have not had that since Apollo,” Kraft said as part of the lecture at the Smithsonian. “I say to Mr Obama: Let’s get on with it. Let’s invest in the future.”