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Awarding gold medals to astronauts is no small step for lawmakers

October 3, 2011 | 10:41 am

Aldrin 
It’s probably a good thing that Congress didn't plan the moonshot.

The House on Monday is expected to authorize the use of the U.S. Capitol Rotunda for a Nov. 16 ceremony to present congressional gold medals to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and John Glenn -- more than two years after President Obama signed legislation to award the nation’s highest civilian honor to the space legends.

It was not immediately clear why it has taken two years to arrange for the ceremony. Congress voted in 2009, marking the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, to award the medals.

The ceremony is important for NASA supporters who are fighting to shield the space program from a budget-cutting stampede on Capitol Hill.

Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. Aldrin, pilot of the lunar module, was the second to step foot on the moon. Collins piloted Apollo 11’s command module. Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth.

Recipients of the congressional gold medal range from Wilbur and Orville Wright and Charles A. Lindbergh to Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Walt Disney. ALSO:

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-- Richard Simon in Washington

Photo: Neil Armstrong snapped this photo on the moon of fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin. / NASA

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