US celebrates 50-year anniversary of human moon landing

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-07-21 08:00
US astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the Moon, next to the Lunar Module "Eagle" (R), July 20, 1969. [File Photo/NASA via agencies]

WASHINGTON, July 20 — The US space agency NASA on Saturday celebrated the moment astronauts landed on the moon for the first time 50 years ago, replaying online the original moon landing broadcast from July 20, 1969.

It was among the multiple festivities held this week to mark the anniversary, including projecting the life-sized animation of Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument, in the company of a 17-minute video and light show on Friday and Saturday nights.

On July 16, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off on a Saturn V rocket on a journey to the moon. Four days later, Armstrong and Aldrin landed Apollo 11's lunar module on the moon, becoming the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface.

In Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, nearly 2,000 runners competed in 5-km and 10-km "Run to the Moon" races on Saturday.

Looking through the window of a Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF) are (L to R) astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins speaking with their wives (L to R) Mrs. Pat Collins, Mrs. Jan Armstrong, and Mrs. Joan Aldrin at Ellington Air Force Base in this July 27, 1969. [File photo/NASA via agencies]

Starting at 10:38 pm Eastern Time, NASA will also air the historic footage of the moonwalk in real time as it happened 50 years ago.

Also on Saturday, Aldrin accompanied US Vice President Mike Pence to the Kennedy Space Center and showed him the pad where he began that momentous journey.

"Today our nation pays tribute to three brave astronauts who sat atop a 360-foot rocket that lifted off from Pad 39A 50 years ago this week," said Pence. "Apollo 11 is the only event in the 20th century that stands a chance of being widely remembered in the 30th century."

Visitors participate in an Apollo 11 virtual reality ride on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing at the Charles Simonyi Space Gallery at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington, July 20, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

At the anniversary day, the United States unveiled its plan of deep space exploration in order to bring the Apollo 11 legacy forward.

Pence said in the speech that NASA will launch, in its Artemis 1 project, the unmanned Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket around the moon to test the system and pave the way for landing the first woman and the next man on the moon in five years.

Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, has finished building the spacecraft that will fly on Artemis 1, according to NASA.

However, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told the US senators in a hearing on Wednesday that the Space Launch System would not be ready until 2021 after multiple delays, adding more uncertainty to NASA's moon-returning schedule.

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US, July 20, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

In March, Pence called returning Americans to the moon a "spark of urgency," and called for efforts to maintain the country's space superiority.

But in an interview with Fox News on Friday night, Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon after Armstrong, urged global cooperation to achieve humanity's presence on the moon and Mars.

"It would not be at all helpful to be competing for the moon or Mars, that's very wasteful," Aldrin told the media.

The Apollo 11 Lunar Module ascent stage, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. aboard, is photographed from the Command and Service Modules in lunar orbit, July 20, 1969. [File photo/NASA via agencies]
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