Apollo 11 mission's 'giant leap' marked 50 years on

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin arrives for President Trump's State of the Union address on Feb. 5 2019

Capping a week of celebrations over the historic Apollo 11 mission, Vice President Mike Pence joined astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Saturday at the launch pad in Florida that sent the moonwalker and his two crew mates to space for humankind's first steps on the lunar surface 50 years ago. "I'm proud to serve the country that gave me this historic opportunity".

Speaking at a Washington event on Thursday, he said that while the Moon itself was breathtaking seen up close, it was the view of Earth that has stayed with him and shaped his perspective.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the moon-landing and although it was a NASA mission, Canada played a big role. All three were born in 1930, and although Aldrin and Collins are still alive, Armstrong died in 2012 at the age of 82.

Earlier, in a launch coinciding with the anniversary, a Soyuz spacecraft carrying astronauts from the US, Russia and Italy took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazazkhstan, bound for the International Space Station.

Of the 12 people who walked on the moon during 9 Apollo Missions from 1968 to 1972, one, David Scott, was perhaps most comfortable in a weightless environment. But experts doubt that the space agency can meet its current goals on time. None of the key elements - the rocket, crew capsule, lander, or orbital station - are yet ready.

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"The Valley of Taurus-Littrow on the Moon presents a view that is one of the more spectacular natural scenes in the Solar System", said Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the only geologist to walk on the Moon. "I would take what I call the John F. Kennedy approach and I'd say if you want to go to Mars, you say you want to go to Mars and you go."Even President Donald Trump - whose vice-president is out there plugging moonshots - prefers talking up Mars". The vice president reiterated the Trump administration's push to put Americans back on the moon by 2024. Meeting with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin on Friday, Mr. Trump grilled NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine about the logistics of getting a man on Mars.

The White House meanwhile issued a statement announcing it was "committed to reestablishing our Nation's dominance and leadership in space for centuries to come".

Young hopes that the 50th anniversary will spark renewed interest among young people in science, technology and engineering much like the kids who grew up watching Apollo were inspired by how those things could solve seemingly impossible problems.

Both presidents George HW Bush and his son George W Bush made similar promises but financial constraints stopped their vision from being realized. The future of Artemis rests therefore on the willingness of Congress to increase substantially NASA's current budget of $21 billion - and possibly on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

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