NASA, other space agencies mourn passing of Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II discusses the impact of the Apollo 11 moon landing during her annual Christmas Day message on Dec. 25, 2019.
Queen Elizabeth II discusses the impact of the Apollo 11 moon landing during her annual Christmas Day message on Dec. 25, 2019. (Image credit: UK Royal Family)

NASA and others in the space community are adding their voices to the chorus mourning the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

The queen, who died today (Sept. 8) at the age of 96, reigned for 70 years, longer than any other monarch in the United Kingdom's history. She saw a lot in those seven decades, as NASA noted.

"Queen Elizabeth II's reign spanned all of spaceflight, predating both Sputnik and Explorer 1. As we join the planet in marking her passing, we are moved by the curiosity Her Royal Highness showed our explorers over the years," NASA officials said via Twitter today. (Explorer 1 was the United States' first successful satellite; it reached orbit in February 1958, four months after Sputnik 1.)

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That tweet included a photo of the queen meeting with Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin after their historic 1969 mission to the moon. Aldrin tweeted the image out as well, along with these words: "God bless #QueenElizabeth, a gracious leader, lady, and our host on return from the moon. On behalf of the Apollo 11 crew, Godspeed and God bless the Royal Family. Sincere condolences."

NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, the nexus of the agency's crewed spaceflight efforts, also tweeted a tribute today, complete with two photos.

"Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's influence reached all corners of the world, and we are so fortunate that we had the privilege of hosting her visit to @NASA_Johnson. We join the planet in honoring her memory," JSC officials wrote.

The UK Space Agency changed its Twitter header photo in a tribute to the queen. And the European Space Agency posted condolences today as well: "ESA is saddened by the passing of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Her Majesty witnessed the dawn of the space age, meeting astronauts from Neil Armstrong to Britain’s own Tim Peake, who gifted her with the union flag patch from his spacewalk during the Principia mission."

Peake paid his respects to the late queen via Twitter today (Sept. 8), too. "A remarkable woman. Thank you Ma’am for a lifetime of service and dedication. A sad day and our thoughts are with the @RoyalFamily," the British astronaut wrote. (Principia is the name given to his mission aboard the International Space Station, which lasted from December 2015 to June 2016.)

Big names in the private space sector also contributed kind words. "I can think of no one who better personified duty. My deepest condolences to all the Brits mourning her passing today," Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos tweeted today.

And British billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group of companies that includes Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, published a blog post today titled "The queen redefined leadership."

"She lived a life of service, standing for the best of British values, providing grace and consistency in an ever-changing world," wrote Branson, who said he met the queen many times over the years. "She was extremely calm, very astute and a great listener — all excellent qualities in a leader. She also had a wonderful sense of humor and took a great interest in the people she met wherever she went."

Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:04 p.m. ET on Sept. 9 to include Buzz Aldrin's tweet.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.