CAPE CANAVERAL: Forty-eight years after he landed on the moon, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin rolled out a red carpet for the red planet at a star-studded gala at the Kennedy Space Center.
Aldrin, 87, commemorated the upcoming anniversary of the 1969 mission to the moon under a historic Saturn V rocket Saturday and raised more than $190,000 for his nonprofit space education foundation, ShareSpace Foundation. Aldrin believes people will be able to land on Mars by 2040, a goal NASA shares. The space agency is developing the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft to send Americans to deep space.
From left to right, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Amazon.com and Blue Origins founder Jeff Bezos, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Jack Schmitt, and Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins. (Image: AP)
Apollo astronauts Walt Cunningham, Michael Collins and Harrison ``Jack'' Schmitt joined Aldrin, one of 12 people to walk on the moon, at the sold-out fundraiser.
During the gala, the ShareSpace Foundation presented Jeff Bezos with the first Buzz Aldrin Space Innovation Award. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com and the spaceflight company Blue Origin, is trying to bring the cost of space travel down by reusing rockets.
Buzz Aldrin, left, and Amazon.com and Blue Origins founder Jeff Bezos attend the commemoration for the upcoming anniversary of the 1969 mission to the moon. (Image: AP)
The foundation also honored former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space, with the Buzz Aldrin Space Pioneering Award.
Space memorabilia was auctioned at the gala, including an autographed first day insurance ``cover'' that fetched $42,500 and flew to the surface of the moon. Covers were set up by NASA because insurance companies were reluctant to offer life insurance to pioneers of the U.S. space program, according to the auction website. Money raised from their sale would have paid out to the astronauts' families in the event of their deaths. The covers were issued in limited numbers and canceled on the day of launch.
The gala is the first part of a three-year campaign leading up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing to help fund advancements that will lead to the future habitation of Mars.
ShareSpace Foundation on Saturday announced a new nonprofit, the Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation, to create an educational path to Mars. During the past year, the foundation has gifted 100 giant maps of Mars to schools and continues to work with children to advance education in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, or STEAM.