NASA's Artemis moon program receives salute from Apollo 11's Buzz Aldrin (video)

The second person to walk on the moon can't wait to see new astronauts follow in his footprints.

Buzz Aldrin, one of the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission of 1969, said Thursday (Feb. 23) he is excited to see NASA land people on the moon again as soon as 2025 with its Artemis program

A livestreamed pre-recorded video with comments by Aldrin, 93, played at a meeting of the users' advisory group of the National Space Council (NSpC) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday (Feb. 23). US Vice-President Kamala Harris leads the council and the role of the users' advisory group is to allow a space for industry, non-profit and other sectors to give guidance on space policy.

"We salute the young men and women, astronauts, scientists, and technicians who are now picking up the torch of deep space exploration," said Aldrin, adding that he tuned into all events of the "inspiring" uncrewed Artemis 1 test launch that flew a human-rated Orion spacecraft around the moon and back in late 2022.

Related: Apollo 11 at 50: A complete guide to the historic moon landing

Apollo 11's Buzz Aldrin salutes next to a picture of himself on the moon on July 23, 2019, approximately 50 years after he participated in the first-ever lunar landing. The picture was taken at an Apollo 11 exhibit at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum near Los Angeles. (Image credit: Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Alluding to the events surrounding Apollo 11's mission between July 16 and July 24, 1969, Aldrin said he had the "extraordinary privilege to have played a role in one of the epic dramas of our age: America's race to the moon and back."

At the time, space was seen as a proving ground for technology, with military potential. Both the United States and the Soviet Union sent a series of missions to show that space could be used by humans for exploration, Earth observation and science as well. 

An element of international prestige was involved, too; some observers frame the two countries' activities as a "Space Race", although there were times when the Americans and Soviets were considering collaborative missions in the 1960s. (The first such mission took place in 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.)

Russia, the successor entity to the Soviet Union, is now a partner on the International Space Station. But most other collaborations were torn asunder a year ago, on Feb. 24, 2022, with Russia's internationally condemned invasion of Ukraine.

Aldrin maintained that his crew's intentions were meant to be first steps to bringing people of all nations to the moon, which is also an aim of Artemis. "We planted the American flag on the moon," he acknowledged, which all Apollo crews did. "[But] we did so not to lay an imperial claim to the moon as idealistic Americans; we came in peace for all mankind."

No crews have been named for upcoming Artemis missions, but news should be coming shortly. Artemis 2, which aims to circle the moon in 2024, will announce its crew this spring — including a Canadian, thanks to the country's Canadarm3 robotic contribution to a planned NASA space station called Gateway. Artemis 3 will then aim for the surface in 2025. Japan is rumored as well to be a contender for early missions, based on comments about its astronauts joining Artemis.

Aldrin is the only surviving member of the Apollo 11 crew. Commander and first-ever moonwalker Neil Armstrong died in 2012 at age 82 while command module pilot Michael Collins died in 2021 at age 90. 

Apollo 11 was the second space excursion for Aldrin. His first mission was the Earth-orbiting Gemini 12 mission in 1966, performing three short spacewalks while extra-vehicular activities were still in their infancy. 

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: