Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reunited Friday on the eve of the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first moon landing.
They gathered in the Oval Office with President Trump, who got a rundown on his administration’s plans to get astronauts back on the moon by 2024 and then on to Mars in the 2030s.
“We’re bringing the glamour back” to the space program, Trump said.
Both sons of the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, also attended, as well as first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The moon versus Mars debate as astronauts’ next destination arose again Friday.
The president asked if astronauts could get to Mars without first going back to the moon.
Collins, 88, who circled the moon alone in the command module while Armstrong and Aldrin descended in the Eagle, told the president that he supports going directly to Mars and bypassing the moon.
“It seems to me Mars direct, who knows better than these people?” Trump noted.
Bridenstine, though, stressed the importance of the moon as a training ground and noted that because of the planetary alignment, launches to Mars can occur only every 26 months and even then the trip is seven months each way.
“What happens if you miss the timing? They’re in deep trouble?” Trump asked. “You don’t want to be on that ship.”
Aldrin, meanwhile, said he’s disappointed with the state of human space exploration the past 10 or 15 years. “We were able to achieve so much early,” the 89-year-old said.
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