Look ahead with vision and wonder, space heroes urge U.S.

July 21, 1994|By Newsday

WASHINGTON -- America paid tribute to the astronauts of Apollo 11, but the heroes of the space program had some challenging words for the country.

In contrast to a presidential speech that focused largely on the space program's earthly benefits, Neil Armstrong urged American youth yesterday to be visionary in their outlook, while his Apollo 11 crew mate Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin lamented the country's "withered capacity for wonder."

President Clinton and Mr. Armstrong spoke at a White House ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Mr. Aldrin's comments came at a break fast gathering earlier in the day.

"To you we say we have only completed a beginning," Mr. Armstrong told a group of students who attended the East Room celebration. "We leave you much that is undone."

Mr. Clinton said that the best way to honor these men and all the others who have helped" in the space program "is to continue that quest." But, as expected, the president sketched no grand vision of the future, such as the permanent base on the moon and eventual voyages to Mars endorsed by former President Bush on the 20th anniversary of the moon landing.

It was Mr. Armstrong, who has avoided the spotlight in the years since his pioneering achievement, who issued the visionary call in his brief remarks.

"There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth's protective layers," Mr. Armstrong told the students. "There are places to go beyond belief. Those challenges are yours -- in many fields, not the least of which is space, because there lies human destiny."

Vice President Al Gore, in opening remarks, described the anniversary as a happy occasion. But it also was bittersweet. The East Room was bedecked with huge photos of NASA's glory days -- a space-suited astronaut on the moon, a Saturn V moon rocket being readied for launch and a view from the moon of the blue Earth against the cold, dark abyss.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Aldrin -- who joined Mr. Armstrong on the moon while crew mate Michael Collins circled above -- told the breakfast gathering that he was disappointed that the United States has not done more in space since the Apollo program.

"For one crowning moment, we were creatures of the cosmic ocean, a moment that a thousand years hence may be seen as the signature of our century," Mr. Aldrin said.

"Yet an eerie apathy now seems to inflict the very generation who witnessed and were inspired by those events. The past quarter-century has seen a withered capacity for wonder and a growing retreat to delusions of risk-free society."

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