Astronauts Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Historic Apollo 11 Launch and Moon Landing
Tuesday marks 50 years since Apollo 11's Saturn V launched from the Kennedy Space Center
It’s a week worth celebrating!
The first human steps were taken on the moon 50 years ago to the day on Saturday, and eight astronauts from NASA’s Apollo program — including Buzz Aldrin — have been celebrating in the months and weeks leading up to the landmark day.
The group met up in March at the Explorer’s Club in New York City, according to Business Insider. Of the 17 Apollo astronauts still alive, Walter Cunningham of Apollo 7, Rusty Schweickart of Apollo 8, Fred Haise of Apollo 13, Al Worden of Apollo 15, Charlie Duke of Apollo 16, Harrison Schmitt of Apollo 17, Michael Collins and Aldrin, 89, both of Apollo 11, were present at the celebratory event.
Aldrin — the second man to walk on the moon after Neil Armstrong, who died in 2012 at age 82 — certainly stood out at the event, sporting a suit covered in rocket ships, a silver bowtie, pink button down and American flag socks.
Photographer Felix Kunze told Business Insider that Aldrin’s suit drew “almost as much attention as the man himself.”
But the event wasn’t just about space-worthy threads — several of the astronauts participated in a panel, sharing stories from their various missions.
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Collins, now 88, returned Tuesday to the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A — the exact spot where he took off to space with Aldrin and Armstrong all those years ago, the Associated Press reported.
“Wonderful feeling to be back,” Collins said on NASA TV, according to the AP. “There’s a difference this time. I want to turn and ask Neil a question and maybe tell Buzz Aldrin something, and of course, I’m here by myself.”
Aldrin canceled his appearance at the event due to travel, the AP reported.
However, he did speak out about the lunar landing on Twitter.
“50 years ago today, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and I launched into space on a mission of enormous importance. God bless the 400,000 Americans who helped us get to the moon and back. Together, we Americans can do anything! Never forget July 16, 1969 #Apollo50.”
Aldrin also opened up about the mission at a 50th anniversary gala on Monday at the Ronald Reagan Library outside Los Angeles, according to Reuters. “I sometimes think the three of us missed ‘the big event.’ While we were out there on the moon, the world was growing closer together, right here,” he said.
“We did not know the instant of leaving the ground. We only knew it from the instruments and voice communications which confirmed liftoff,” he added. “We sort of looked at each other and thought, ‘We must be on our way.’”
While Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon, Tuesday is the anniversary of their rocket’s launch.
Collins was there to mark the Saturn V’s exact moment of take-off: 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969.
“Apollo 11 … was serious business,” Collins said, per the AP. “We, crew, felt the weight of the world on our shoulders. We knew that everyone would be looking at us, friend or foe, and we wanted to do the best we possibly could.”
Events leading up to Saturday’s moon landing anniversary will continue throughout the week.