Apollo crew reunited for anniversary
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins get together for 40th anniversary of the Nasa Moon landing
One thing missing from the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Moon landing has been a public get-together of the three men who took the eight-day, 500,000-mile journey together, squeezed into the tiny Apollo 11 pod. It will finally take place this weekend in Washington DC.
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, who followed him out of the lunar module Eagle, and Michael Collins who remained aboard the orbiting command module Columbia, will be reunited when they deliver a joint lecture on space history at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. The lecture is on Sunday, the eve of the anniversary of the actual touchdown on the Moon's surface on July 20, 1969.
All three men are approaching their 80th birthdays and it is likely to be the last time they make such a public appearance. It's therefore likely to be their last meeting of any kind, for it is well known that the three men who "came in peace for all mankind" have never been close and rarely talk to each other. Collins himself once described the trio as "amiable strangers".
"From time to time Neil might get a call from Buzz or Mike, but I don't see Neil calling them unless something specific had come up," says Prof James Hansen, an Alabama historian who wrote Armstrong's 2006 biography, First Man. "The kind of male bonding that you definitely found on the Apollo 12 crew and many other crews, I just don't think it ever happened with these guys."
According to Prof Hansen, talking to the Times, Armstrong has been agonising over how to present his views on space flight at the Smithsonian. He is the man who uttered the immortal words "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" and, given the infrequency of his public appearances, he is aware that the world will once again be hanging on his every word.
The trouble is, his views on space travel are at odds with those of Aldrin, who has never recovered from being the second man on the Moon. Armstrong believes there should be further manned voyages to the Moon, while Aldrin says it's time Nasa concentrated on getting to Mars.
However, Aldrin is unlikely to pick an argument, says Prof Hansen. "Buzz is still very unsure - and this is ironic for those who don't understand the relationship within that Apollo 11 crew - but I don't think Buzz, to this day, really understands Armstrong very well." ·
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