Monday, July 20, 2009

US marks 40 years since man first walked on the moon

Updated on : Monday, July 20, 2009

WASHINGTON: The United States this week marks the 40th anniversary of the historic first moon walk, with President Barack Obama kicking off events by meeting at the White House Monday with the crew of the Apollo 11 mission.

The Apollo 11 crew became the first to accomplish the dream of ages and walk on the surface of the moon -- an endeavor now remembered at a time when future US dominance in space has become far less certain.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," said astronaut Neil Armstrong as he stepped down from the lunar lander on July 20, 1969, as an estimated 500 million people on Earth crowded round televisions and radios.

Washington's "Newseum" news museum on Monday will simulcast a discussion -- "The Apollo Legacy: The Moon and Beyond" -- to science centers across the United States.

In addition to the White House reception, a host of events planned included a news conference in Washington Monday with astronauts from the Apollo program.

Celebrations will be held from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the Apollo 11 mission blasted off, to mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in the US capital.

The lunar landing was a huge morale booster to a country mired in the bloody Vietnam war and on edge because of the Cold War, ushering in a new sense of confidence and challenging concepts of science and religion.

But dreams that we might all be able to travel to the stars some day have been rudely brought down to earth.

Now, US space agency NASA's ambitious plans to put US astronauts back on the moon by 2020 to establish manned lunar bases for further space exploration to Mars under the Constellation project are increasingly in doubt.

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