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Congress Honors 4 Astronauts With Highest Civilian Honor

November 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Four astronauts were awarded the nation's highest civilian honor on Wednesday: the Congressional Gold Medal. Ray Suarez reports.

RAY SUAREZ: Finally tonight, four astronauts were awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor today, the Congressional Gold Medal.

They were John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, and three members of the Apollo 11 crew, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to walk on the moon in 1969, and Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 pilot.

The ceremony took place in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, where the leaders of the House and Senate presented the medals.

Armstrong and Glenn spoke.

Here’s part of what they said.

NEIL ARMSTRONG, Congressional Gold Medal recipient: We gather in this remarkable monument to American history, this room connecting the houses of Congress. High above us stretches a frieze with 19 panels depicting important events in American history.

The most recent of them depicts the first successful flight of a man in a powered aircraft by the brothers Wright 108 years ago. The depiction in addition to the craft and the responsible individuals includes an American bald eagle carrying an olive branch.

In an appropriate coincidence, Apollo 11’s mission emblem and crew patch also featured an American bald eagle carrying an olive branch.

JOHN GLENN, Congressional Gold Medal recipient: For many, many thousands of years, people had looked up and wondered, they had been curious, about what was up there.

Well, we must consider ourselves among the most fortunate of all generations, where we have lived at a time when the dream became a reality, when we finally could travel above the atmosphere around the Earth, where we could establish laboratories in space, and do research, and, for the very first time in history, leave human footprints on some place other than Earth.

As our knowledge of the universe in which we live increases, may God grant us the wisdom and guidance to use it wisely.

Thank you.