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NASA Honors Veteran Journalist Walter Cronkite
Veteran journalist Walter Cronkite honored with NASA award In honor of his iconic coverage of America's space program, NASA presented journalist Walter Cronkite with an Ambassador of Exploration Award on Feb. 28 at a ceremony in Austin, Texas.

Image left: Veteran journalist Walter Cronkite is honored at a ceremony, below, in Austin, Texas. Photo Credit: NASA.

Calling the honor, "beyond anything I could have ever believed," Cronkite said he wanted to share it with his fellow journalists who covered the great adventure of space exploration. "It's hard for us to really understand the immensity so far of the conquest of space," he said.

Cronkite, the only Ambassador of Exploration recipient who was not an astronaut or NASA employee, said it was a "great honor to participate in any way -- even as a reporter." He also said he envied those reporters who would get to cover the next stages of space exploration.

From the beginning of America's manned space program to the age of the Space Shuttle, Cronkite anchored CBS Evening News. Already a veteran journalist before coming to network news, Cronkite anchored the launch of Apollo 11, shouting "go, baby, go" as it rocketed into space. His marathon, live coverage of the first moon landing brought the excitement and impact of the historic event into the homes of millions of Americans and observers around the world, spending 27 of the next 30 hours on the air.

In a 1996 interview with Kira Albin, Cronkite opined that "the whole period of the '60s changed a lot of us; there was never a decade like that in American history ... to have the decade capture one of the great accomplishments of this century: man landing on the moon. That will be the one event of the 20th century, despite all the other great scientific and technological innovations and inventions that came down the line, that will live in history 500 years from now ...

Cronkite echoed those thoughts at the award ceremony, drawing parallels to our modern celebration of Columbus Day:

" I think that 500 years from now the young people that are living on space stations and space cities and perhaps on the orbs themselves out there ... they will be recognizing the most important feat of all time. 500 years from now they will be celebrating the first landing on the moon and the first walk on the moon."

He also quipped that the Apollo 11 landing was the only time he'd ever been left speechless -- "What I said was 'Gosh! Wow! Gee!' -- immortal words obviously."

As he said in the 1996 interview, "I had as much time to prepare for that moon landing as NASA did, and I still was speechless when it happened. It just was so awe-inspiring to actually be able to see the thing through the television that was a miracle in itself. "

Veteran journalist, Walter Cronkite, hosts news broadcast on the Apollo missions. Image above: CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite, covered NASA missions from Mercury through the space shuttle. Image credit: CBS News.

Cronkite is often remembered for his enthusiastic coverage of America's technological prowess, especially NASA's space missions, from the early Mercury launches, through the ground-breaking Gemini missions, to the subsequent moon landings and the space shuttle program.

NASA is presenting the Ambassador of Exploration Award to the 38 astronauts and other key individuals who participated in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs for realizing America’s vision of space exploration from 1961 to 1972.

The award is a sample of lunar material encased in Lucite and mounted for public display. The material is part of the 842 pounds of samples brought back to Earth during the six Apollo lunar expeditions from 1969 to 1972.

Cronkite presented the lunar sample to University of Texas president William Powers. He accepted on behalf of the Center for American History, the archival home of the Walter Cronkite Papers. The sample will be displayed in the Center's exhibit gallery.

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