Washington (dpa) - Exactly 50 years after the launch of the "Apollo 11" mission to the moon, the head of the US space agency Nasa has stressed the importance of a renewed moon landing for the way to Mars. "The moon is the test site, Mars is the destination," said Jim Bridenstine at a press conference.
The goal set by US President Donald Trump's government of bringing US astronauts to the moon again by 2024 was "a difficult task, but achievable." The fact that a woman should be among them was "long overdue". A manned landing on Mars until 2033 is possible. The cost of these ventures estimates Bridenstine at between 20 and 30 billion dollars.
Exactly 50 years ago - on July 16, 1969 at 3:32 pm CEST - the three astronauts of the "Apollo 11" mission - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins - had started towards the Moon. Five days later, Armstrong and Aldrin were the first humans to enter Earth's moon.
To celebrate the anniversary, Collins arrived on Tuesday at the launch site 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in the US state of Florida, from which the three astronauts were then launched. It was a "wonderful feeling" to be back in this place, said Collins in an interview broadcast live on NASA, to which colleague Aldrin had not appeared otherwise than announced.
He has positive memories of the "Apollo 11" mission, Collins said - also of the time when his two colleagues were on the moon and he was in the command pod turning on hold. "I was fine, I trusted my surroundings, and I was happy to be where I was. Plus, I had hot coffee and music if I wanted. "The 88-year-old, however, does not see the future of NASA on the moon. "I do not want to go back to the moon, I want to go straight to Mars."
The only woman in control center during the launch of "Apollo 11", the now 78-year-old JoAnn Morgan, had come to Florida for the jubilee celebration. There was "a lot of intensity and a lot of hope" back then, Morgan said. "I just did my job." She supported the plan of an astronaut on the moon. "I just love the idea of a woman walking on the moon." Ex-Astronaut Collins agrees. "I think women can do anything men do - maybe they can do it better."