President Donald Trump joined in some of the Apollo 11 anniversary fever by hosting the two living astronauts who helped carry out the historic 1969 mission to the moon.
Buzz Aldrin, the Lunar Module pilot for Apollo 11, and Michael Collins, who served as command module pilot, both attended an Oval Office photo-op that the White House opened to the press at the last minute on Friday.
‘What a career you’ve had. Great careers,’ Trump said, during back-and-forth remarks where he quizzed the astronauts about the modern space program.
President Donald Trump speaks with Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin on Friday at the White House in Washington, DC, during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Also attending were Michael Collins and children of Neil Armstrong
Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin attends a White House event to commemorate the Apollo 11 anniversary
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Apollo 11 crew member Michael Collins on July 19, 2019, at the White House in Washington, DC, during a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. Collins served as command module pilot orbiting above the Moon on the historic mission
Trump, flanked by Aldrin and Collins, with First Lady Melania Trump behind him, also spoke on topics of the day, saying in an apparent reference to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar that he is unhappy that a congresswoman ‘can hate our country’
First Lady Melania Trump listens intently to her president during the discussion with the astronauts over the future of space
Trump called the Moon mission ‘one of the great achievements ever.’
He added: ‘Tomorrow will represent 50 years from the time we planted a beautiful American flag on the moon.
‘These are incredible men. And, honestly, I’ve gotten to know some of the women in the family. These are great women, great men, and frankly great genes. But tomorrow’s a big day, tomorrow’s a day where, 50 years.’
‘NASA’s back’ Trump said. ‘We’re having rich guys use it and pay us rent,’ Trump said, also plugging his planned ‘Space Force.’
Aldrin brought his companion, Anca Faur, while Collins brought two daughters and grandchildren.
Neil Armstrong, the former Korean War aviator and Navy test pilot who commanded the mission, died in 2012. He was represented by two sons, Eric Armstrong and Marc Armstrong.
During remarks with the astronauts while the cameras rolled, Trump asked Collins: ‘What’s the difference with – it’s a long time ago – with that and with say what they’re doing today?
Collins responded by speaking about private investment in space flight.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin tweeted: ‘Keep America Great in Space!!’
Trump shakes hands with Aldrin in the Oval Office meeting during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the moon landing
‘I think that’s wonderful,’ said Collins. The more the merrier. The money that [Elon] Musk and [Jeff] Bezos take out of their own pocket they put into the federal kitty, it’s all one lump as far as I’m concerned…I think it’s just the more the merrier,’ he said, mention Amazon chief and Trump nemesis Jeff Bezos.
‘Do you see a big advancement from so many years ago with Apollo 11? You see a tremendous advancement?’ Trump asked Collins.
‘Like Elon Musk I see like where his propulsion systems come back to Earth. I had never seen that before,’ he added.
Collins responded: ‘That is the most dramatic new idea – reusability. How many things in our life to we use once in our life and then throw away. Too many. Maybe that reusability doctrine could be a little more widespread in the rest of our economy.’
The brought a smile from Trump, who replied: ‘Pretty good point. That’s a very good point.’
Trump’s campaign web site has begun selling ‘reusable’ plastic straws in a bit of trolling of the paper straw movement.
‘Liberal paper straws don’t work,’ Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale wrote in a post about them.
Neil Armstrong’s son Rick (second from left) looks animated during a conversation over the future of space
Aldrin was at the event with his girlfriend Anca Faur, who dazzled in a blue dress
Trump called the Moon mission ‘one of the great achievements ever.’ He added: ‘Tomorrow will represent 50 years from the time we planted a beautiful American flag on the moon
‘NASA’s back’ Trump said. ‘We’re having rich guys use it and pay us rent,’ Trump said, also plugging his planned ‘Space Force’
‘Do you see a big advancement from so many years ago with Apollo 11? You see a tremendous advancement?’ Trump asked Collins. ‘Like Elon Musk I see like where his propulsion systems come back to Earth. I had never seen that before,’ he added
Collins responded: ‘That is the most dramatic new idea – reusability. How many things in our life to we use once in our life and then throw away. Too many. Maybe that reusability doctrine could be a little more widespread in the rest of our economy’
Aldrin is seen pushing something across the desk to the president during the commemoration
President Donald Trump accompanied by Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, second from left, and Buzz Aldrin, third from right, with Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump
Trump also used the event to stoke a debate about the best way to get to Mars. ‘To get to Mars you have to land on the Moon, they say. Any way of going directly without landing on the moon is that a possibility?’ Trump asked NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine
‘We need to use the Moon as a proving ground,’ said Bridenstine (center). ‘We need to learn how to live and work on another world. He spoke about harnessing the Moon’s materials and setting up a hub that would orbit the satellite, which has much less gravitational pull than the Earth
(FILES) In this file photo obtained from NASA, shows the official crew portrait of the Apollo 11 astronauts taken at the Kennedy Space Center on March 30, 1969, of(L-R) Neil A. Armstrong (DEAD 2012), Commander; Michael Collins, Module Pilot; and Edwin E. ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot
Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, was launched on 16 July 1969. Four days later, at 10.56.15pm EDT on 20 July 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin climbed down the steps of the Lunar Module to become the first humans to set foot on another planetary body
The moon is visible through clouds, left, as an image of a 363-foot Saturn V rocket is projected on the east face of the Washington Monument
Trump also used the event to stoke a debate about the best way to get to Mars.
‘To get to Mars you have to land on the Moon, they say. Any way of going directly without landing on the moon is that a possibility?’ Trump asked NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
‘We need to use the Moon as a proving ground,’ said Bridenstine. ‘We need to learn how to live and work on another world. He spoke about harnessing the Moon’s materials and setting up a hub that would orbit the satellite, which has much less gravitational pull than the Earth.
Neil Armstrong, who died in 2012, was represented by family members. Michael Collins said that despite being an introvert by nature, Neil Armstrong (shown here) was the best spokesperson among the crew, making audiences feel like they had been along for the ride
‘How do you feel about it?’ Trump asked Collins.
‘Mars direct,’ the astronaut responded.
Trump agreed with him. ‘It seems to me, Mars direct,’ he said.
After Trump asked Aldrin, 89, to say a few words, he responded: ‘Actually, I’ve been a little disappointed over the last 10 or 15 years.’
He said the space program hadn’t achieved as much as it did during the early years. He said the U.S. has the ‘Number One spacecraft and they cannot get into lunar orbit with significant maneuver capability.’
‘That’s a great disappointment to me,’ Aldrin added.
Trump later directed his administrator: ‘I’d like to have you also listen to the other side because some people want to do it a different way. So you’ll listen to Buzz as well as the other people.’
First Lady Melania Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence also attended.
Aldrin and Armstrong landed on the moon 50 years ago Saturday. Collins’ role was to stay behind in the command module orbiting above the surface.
The Oval Office photo-op came amid other events to mark the anniversary.
Images of the 363-foot-high rocket that carried the three astronauts to the Moon were beamed onto the side of the Washington Monument on Tuesday night.
Other events were held to mark it, with veteran astronauts speaking at a conference near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and a dinner at in Kansas City, Missouri, where the rocket was built.
Spectators take selfies in front of a projection of the Saturn V rocket on the Washington Monument in the capital on Tuesday night
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot for Apollo 11, poses for a photograph beside the deployed United States flag during an extravehicular activity (EVA) on the moon, July 20, 1969. The lunar module (LM) is on the left, and the footprints of the astronauts are visible in the soil
Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Commander of NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, photographed at the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC) in Houston, Texas, July 1969
Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin (L) and Neil Armstrong during a training session for their lunar EVA at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, June 5, 1969
The Saturn V rocket that got the three men to the moon was overseen by ex-Nazi Wernher Von Braun.
Collins described how the mission was broken into discrete goals such as breaking free of the Earth’s gravity or slowing down for lunar orbit.
‘The flight was a question of being under tension, worrying about what’s coming next. What do I have to do now to keep this daisy chain intact?’
Unlike Collins, Aldrin has remained relatively elusive and did not participate at Tuesday’s launchpad event.
Aging but active on Twitter, and often seen in stars-and-stripes socks or ties, the 89-year-old has faced health scares and family feuds, culminating in a court case over finances, which was settled in March.
He is the second of 12 men to have set foot on the Moon, only four of whom are still alive.
Collins has been fielding questions for half a century about whether he felt lonely or left out.
‘I was always asked, wasn’t I the loneliest person in the whole lonely history of the whole lonely solar system when I was by myself in that lonely orbit?’ he said. ‘And the answer was, ‘No, I felt fine!’
‘I would enjoy a perfectly enjoyable hot coffee, I had music if I wanted to. Good old Command Module Columbia had every facility that I needed, and it was plenty big and I really enjoyed my time by myself instead of being terribly lonely.’