(WASHINGTON) — Legendary moonwalker Buzz Aldrin may have been “out of town” when the world celebrated Apollo 11’s lunar landing, but he marked the anniversary on Tuesday with a presidential handshake and a meeting in the Oval Office — the same spot from whence President Nixon made that famous interplanetary telephone call to the moon 45 years ago.
Nixon called July 20, 1969 — the day Aldrin and Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 lunar module and onto the moon — the “proudest day of our lives.”
“For one priceless moment in the whole history of man all the people on this Earth are truly one — one in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth,” Nixon said during his satellite conversation with Armstrong.
Four months later — following a 21-day quarantine procedure designed to shield Earth from possible lunar pathogens and a 24-country “good will tour” meant to demonstrate the United States’ willingness to share its lunar expertise — the Apollo 11 team visited the president at the White House.
Since then, the astronauts have met with Presidents Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush — and now Obama.
Aldrin and Michael Collins (who remained in the orbiter during the moon walk) — along with Neil Armstrong’s wife, Carol, and current NASA administrator Charles Bolden — returned to the White House on Tuesday to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their moon landing.
It’s not known what the group discussed.
Before his death, Armstrong lambasted Obama for cancelling NASA’s moon return project “Constellation,” calling the U.S. spaceflight program “lamentably embarrassing and unacceptable.”
“A lead, however earnestly and expensively won, once lost, is nearly impossible to regain,” the astronaut told Congress.
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David Wright, CNN
Sara Weber, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN