Honoring NASA's Pioneering Astronauts
Leaders of Congress honored astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins who each received a Congressional Gold Medals in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Nov. 16, 2011. The Gold Medal, Congress' highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions, was first given to George Washington in 1776.
Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, achieving the feat aboard Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon, while Collins piloted Apollo 11's command module.
"We stand on the shoulders of the extraordinary men we recognize today," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at the ceremony. "Those of us who have had the privilege to fly in space followed the trail they forged."
"When, 50 years ago this year, President Kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon, to "take longer strides" toward a "great new American enterprise," these men were the human face of those words," said Bolden. "From Mercury and Gemini, on through our landings on the Moon in the Apollo Program, their actions unfolded the will of a nation for the greater achievement of humankind."
Administrator Bolen also recognized the hundreds of thousands of dedicated NASA employees and industry partners who contributed to the incredible success of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and all that has followed, and all that is yet to come.
Five members of the most recent Astronaut Candidate Class were also in attendance thus showing that the new generation will redefine space exploration in the years to come and continue to honor the legacy of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.
All four astronauts have also received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded with Distinction, as well as NASA's Ambassador of Exploration Award.
Image Credit: NASA/Paul Alers
Left - NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (far right) with (l to r) astronauts Buzz Aldrin, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Mark Kelly and Michael Collins
Right - Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong speaks to Congress at a ceremony that honored fellow astronauts John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins
Administrator Bolen's complete remarks: