Monday, May 04, 2009

Congressional medals sought for Apollo 11, Glenn

Florida delegates are among those seeking to bestow the highest congressional honor on four American space pioneers.

Legislation introduced last week would award gold medals to the crew of Apollo 11, the first mission to land people on the moon, and to John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth.

Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez, and Reps. Alan Grayson, Suzanne Kosmas and Bill Posey have signed on to the bill, which you can read here.

"The motivation, pride, and technological leadership the lunar landing project gave our nation has been unmatched by any project undertaken by any nation since," Martinez, of Orlando, said in a statement. "It's fitting to honor the people and the project that brought America to the forefront of technological advancements and space exploration."

The 40th anniversary of the Eagle's landing and Neil Armstrong's famous "giant leap for mankind" is approaching July 20. Armstrong walked on the moon with Buzz Aldrin while Michael Collins orbited overhead in the command module.

Glenn launched from Kennedy Space Center in Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962, and completed a pioneering three-orbit mission in just under five hours.

He became the oldest astronaut to fly in space at 77, when he flew a nine-day mission aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1998. That was the year he concluded a 24-year run as a U.S. senator from Ohio.

Congress awarded its first gold medal to George Washington on March 25, 1776. Other notable awardees with aviation or spaceflight ties include the Wright brothers in 1909, Charles Lindbergh in 1928 and Robert Goddard in 1959.

Gold medals have been awarded 143 times to individuals or groups through July 2008, according to the House's Office of the Clerk. You can see the full list here.

The legislation must be sponsored by at least two-thirds of the House and at least 67senators before being considered, according to the clerk. The bill would appropriate up to $50,000 for the medals, which would be presented by the president.

IMAGE NOTE: Click the images twice to fully enlarge them. Above, the crew of Apollo 11 in May 1969, from left to right: Neil A. Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr., lunar module pilot. Below, in February 1962, astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. in his Mercury spacesuit at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Source: NASA

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