It’s been exactly 40 years since man first stepped foot on the moon, and today the President welcomed Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin to the White House to honor their achievement. He called the Apollo 11 astronauts "American heroes" and praised the entire NASA family for making that iconic flight possible. He also noted how the men’s accomplishment served as inspiration for a generation, and reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to math and science:
I also know that, as a consequence of the extraordinary work of NASA generally, that you inspired an entire generation of scientists and engineers that ended up really sparking the innovation, the drive, the entrepreneurship, the creativity back here on Earth. And I think it's very important for us to constantly remember that NASA was not only about feeding our curiosity, that sense of wonder, but also had extraordinary practical applications. And one of the things that I've committed to doing as President is making sure that math and science are cool again, and that we once again keep the goal by 2020 of having the highest college graduation rates of any country on Earth, especially in the maths and science fields.
So I think on this 40th anniversary, we are – all of us thank and grateful to all of you for what you've done, and we expect that there's, as we speak, another generation of kids out there who are looking up at the sky and are going to be the next Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrins. And we want to make sure that NASA is going to be there for them when they want to take their journey.
(President Barack Obama poses with Apollo 11 astronauts, from left, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong, Monday, July 20, 2009, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)