Every five years, the three men of Apollo 11 get together to face the cameras and answer questions about the greatest adventure of the 20th century: humanity's first landing on the surface of another world. Now it's been 40 years since that historic touchdown on July 20, 1969, and the spotlight is once more shining on the famous trio.
The biggest stars of NASA's glory days aren't getting any younger. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins are all a year or two away from turning 80. Some might wonder when the "last hurrah" for the space effort's Greatest Generation will come, but the astronauts of Apollo 11 still seem hale and hearty. I wouldn't bet against all three of them living to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their most famous flight.
So what have they been doing since their last stint in the spotlight, five years ago?
One big job has been managing all the activities being planned for the 40th anniversary: For years, Aldrin has been calling upon his fellow astronauts to gather together to promote a "Lunar Renaissance" of exploration. Although the appearances planned over the next few days are a little more ad hoc than what Aldrin had in mind, they nevertheless give America's pioneering astronauts and space historians the biggest stage they've had in at least five years.
Washington, D.C., is the main venue. To mark Thursday's 40th anniversary of Apollo 11's launch, NASA Headquarters is hosting a panel discussion about the Apollo effort's legacy (which you should be able to watch online at 1 p.m. ET via NASA TV). The space agency will also release restored video from the Apollo 11 moonwalk, and begin airing nine days' worth of Apollo 11 audio transmissions (from pre-launch to splashdown). Meanwhile, the National Air and Space Museum will open an exhibit of paintings and drawings by Apollo 12 astronaut/artist Alan Bean.
On Saturday night, Aldrin will be among the narrators at a Kennedy Center musical tribute to Apollo. An "extremely limited" number of free tickets are to be handed out that morning.
The main event takes place Sunday night, when Aldrin takes his place alongside Apollo 11 crewmates Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins for a lecture at the National Air and Space Museum. Apollo flight director Chris Kraft and former senator-astronaut John Glenn are also due to attend. Although the event is sold out, you should be able to catch it on the NASA TV Webcast.
Monday is the big 40th anniversary of the first moon landing and moonwalk. To mark the occasion, a whole array of Apollo astronauts (including Aldrin) are due to take questions at a NASA Headquarters news briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET. Lots of other 40th-anniversary events are planned around the country.