President Obama Meets with Apollo 11 Crew – UPDATE

President Obama Meets with Apollo 11 Crew – UPDATE

UPDATE:  This article was updated to reflect a complaint by the White House Correspondents Association that press coverage of the meeting was limited to only a few photographers.

President Obama met with the two surviving Apollo 11 astronauts and the widow of the third today (July 22) in the Oval Office.  In a statement, he praised NASA for building on their legacy and preparing for the next “giant leap in human exploration.”

As part of the celebration of the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s trip to the Moon, Obama met with Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin and Command Module Pilot Mike Collins, and Carol Armstrong, widow of Commander Neil Armstrong.  The meeting was memorialized in a photo posted on NASA’s website (without a photo credit).

President Obama meets with Apollo 11’s Mike Collins and Buzz Aldrin (facing the camera) and NASA Administrator
Charlie Bolden and Carol Armstrong, widow of Neil Armstrong (with their backs to the camera).  July 22, 2014

Obama’s brief statement contained no new policy guidance.  He hit upon the familiar civil space themes of his administration — NASA’s role in inspiring others, including himself, to “dream bigger and reach higher,” and NASA’s new partnerships with the commercial sector. NASA is  building on the legacy of Apollo 11 and its crew by preparing for the next steps in exploration “including the first visits of men and women to deep space, to an asteroid, and someday to the surface of Mars,” he said, all in partnership with the commercial sector.

Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969.  Armstrong and Adrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon on July 20.  They returned home, splashing down in the Pacific, on July 24.

Later in the day at the daily White House press briefing, CBS correspondent Major Garrett told White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest that the White House Correspondents Association was lodging a formal complaint that reporters were not allowed at the event.  Earnest attributed it to the President’s schedule, which provoked ABC News correspondent Jon Karl to probe further.  Karl asked if the President did not want journalists to meet with the astronauts because Neil Armstrong, before he passed away, was highly critical of the President’s decision to cancel the Constellation program.  Earnest replied “absolutely not” and the astronauts had been invited to honor their contributions..  The President was proud they accepted the invitation, and is President is proud of his policy which will “take our space program to the next level,” he added.   Politico reported on the controversy and posted a video clip of relevant portions of the press briefing.

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