45 years after Moon landing, NASA looks to Mars

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Buzz Aldrin poses on the Moon, while Neil Armstrong photographs both of them using the visor’s reflection.

On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to ever land on the Moon, when the  Eagle Lunar Module of the Apollo 11 mission touched down. After Armstrong descended the Eagle’s ladder, becoming the first person to step onto the Moon’s surface, he described it as “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” For the 45th anniversary of the Moon landing on Sunday, NASA celebrated by broadcasting footage from the historic landing.

Now, NASA is honoring Armstrong, who passed away in 2012, by renaming the Eagle’s launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. What structure will be stamped with the legendary astronaut’s name? The Manned Spacecraft Operations Building, which was built in 1954, was used to “process and test the command, service and lunar modules” according to NASA. The space agency says it will henceforth be known as the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, and will be used to assemble  “the next giant leap in space exploration, sending astronauts to an asteroid and Mars.” Aldrin and several Apollo 11 crew members are expected to attend the ceremony.

As NASA looks to the Red Planet for their next adventure, it’s important to honor the man who pushed hard for the USA’s space program in the first place. President John F. Kennedy, who was tragically assassinated just 2.5 years into his presidency on November 22, 1963, was responsible for a great many achievements. In his time, Soviet Russia was competing with the USA for world dominance during the Cold War (which went from 1946-1991), and he managed to avoid global nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 by using his wits, charm, and strategic mind. He also helped America move towards equality by playing a key role in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. As if that wasn’t enough to pull off in his brief presidency, he led America to victory in the technological Space Race against Russia, by pushing for massive NASA funding and initiating Project Apollo. Although he died years before the Eagle’s historic landing, none of it would have been possible without him.

Images courtesy of NASA.