CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – On July 20, 1969, the world united and rejoiced in a way never seen before or since as Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.
The third Apollo 11 astronaut, Michael Collins, stayed in lunar orbit to take care of the mother ship.
As Sunday’s 45th anniversary of the milestone approaches, Aldrin is asking everyone to remember where they were when he and Armstrong became the first humans to step onto another heavenly body, and to share their memories online.
Too young to remember? You can share how the moon walkers inspired you.
Celebrities, public figures, and other astronauts and scientists are happily obliging with videos.
“What a day that was,” said actor Tom Hanks, sipping from an Apollo 11 commemorative cup. He starred in the 1995 film “Apollo 13.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson, who watched the event unfold on a little black-and-white TV at an English farmhouse, said: “I was only 5 at the time. And it still is just about the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.”
In all, 12 men explored the moon in six landings through 1972. But that first moonwalk, by Armstrong and Aldrin, is what clinched America’s place as space leader supreme following a string of crushing losses to the Soviet Union, which claimed the titles to the first satellite, first man in space, first woman in space and first spacewalker.
Sunday will be the first big anniversary of the first moon landing without Armstrong, whose words “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” immortalized the moment. Armstrong, long known for his reticence, died in 2012 at age 82.
As Apollo 11′s commander, Armstrong was first out the lunar module, Eagle, onto the dusty surface of Tranquility Base. Aldrin followed.
Collins, now 83, the command module pilot who stayed behind in lunar orbit as the gatekeeper, also spent decades sidestepping the spotlight. He is making an exception for the 45th anniversary; he plans to take part in a NASA ceremony at Kennedy Space Center on Monday to add Armstrong’s name to the historic Operations and Checkout Building.
That leaves Aldrin, 84, as the perennial spokesman for Apollo 11. He will be at Monday’s ceremony.
“I consider myself a global statesman for space,” Aldrin says in a video. “So I spend most of my time traveling the country and the world to remind people what NASA and our space program have accomplished, and what is still in our future at Mars. I feel we need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things.”
Aldrin used to keep a little black book to list people’s whereabouts on July 20, 1969 — everyone wanted to share that with him. Now he is using social media and asking people to post a video to YouTube using the hashtag #Apollo45.
Some of the videos urge a return to the moon. President Barack Obama scrapped that idea in 2010 in favor of sending astronauts to an asteroid and then Mars.
“Well done, Buzz Aldrin,” added Johnson, London’s mayor. “And about time we got back up there, huh?”