Nixon awards Presidential Medal of Freedom to Apollo 11 crew

Much ceremony went into the Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s historic walk on the moon, starting with Armstrong’s famous line “That’s one small step for man” (which he always insisted was much more humble “That’s one first step for a man”; the indefinite article was just obscured by static). Goodwill messages from 73 country (sans Russia) were recorded on a small silicon disc and left in the Sea of Tranquility, near the lander. President Nixon himself called the astronauts after their successful landing, a practice run for the ceremony in their honor held in Los Angeles after their return.

On this day, August 13, in 1969 at a dinner in Los Angeles honoring the Apollo 11 astronauts. President Nixon conferred on them the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award on a civilian, given to those who contributed in outstanding form to the prosperity of the United States.

On receiving the award, Buzz Aldrin said “There are footprints on the moon. Those footprints belong to each and every one of you, to all of mankind, and they are there because of the blood, the sweat, and the tears of millions of people. These footprints are a symbol of the true human spirit.” Neil Armstrong was next to receive the medal, remarking “We were privileged to leave on the moon a plaque … saying “for all mankind.” …. Perhaps in the third millennium a wayward stranger will read that plaque at Tranquility Base and let history mark that this was the age in which that became a fact.”