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NASA Legends Awarded Congressional Gold Medal
New Frontier Congressional Gold Medals. Credit: NASA/Stephanie Schierholz The New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal was presented to NASA astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins on Nov. 16, 2011.
Credit: NASA/Stephanie Schierholz
Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong speaks during the ceremony.
Credit: NASA/Paul Alers
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Leaders of Congress honored astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins with congressional gold medals in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Nov. 16, 2011. The Gold Medal, Congress' highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions, was first given to George Washington in 1776.

Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, achieving the feat aboard Friendship 7 on Feb. 20, 1962. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon, while Collins piloted Apollo 11's command module.

"We stand on the shoulders of the extraordinary men we recognize today," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at the ceremony. "Those of us who have had the privilege to fly in space followed the trail they forged."

"When, 50 years ago this year, President Kennedy challenged the nation to reach the moon, to "take longer strides" toward a "great new American enterprise," these men were the human face of those words," said Bolden. "From Mercury and Gemini, on through our landings on the Moon in the Apollo Program, their actions unfolded the will of a nation for the greater achievement of humankind."

Administrator Bolden also noted that five members of the most recent Astronaut Candidate Class were in attendance, pointing out that the new generation "will redefine space exploration in the years to come and continue to honor the legacy of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins."
› Administrator Bolden's Complete Remarks

All four astronauts have also received the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded with distinction, as well as NASA's own Ambassador of Exploration Award.

Congress approved the New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal Act in July 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.
› 2009: Apollo 11 Crew Honored By Congress