As the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaches on July 20, famed astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin is urging his country to "lead in space" and reverse years of unambitious policy that has left NASA "adrift."
The video features a stream of celebrities, public officials and space industry leaders recounting the impact of the lunar landing on their lives. Nerd favorites Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson make an appearance, as do "Apollo 13" star Tom Hanks and space program champion Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. The video opens to a recording of President John F. Kennedy's famous 1962 speech at Rice University, which dedicated the U.S. to a manned mission to the moon within a decade.
Kennedy's mythic figure and the other guest appearances are accompanied in the video by the swelling fourth movement of composer Gustav Holst's opus, "The Planets."
Despite its A-list cast, the video's principal actor dwarfs the other stars, as one of the first men to have walked among them.
"I feel we need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things," Aldrin says. "The whole world celebrated our moon landing, but we [Apollo 11 astronauts Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins] missed the whole thing because we were out of town."
Aldrin encourages viewers to share where they were during the lunar landing via social media using the hashtag #Apollo45. ("Kids, help your parents if they don't know how to use a smartphone," Aldrin, ahead of the curve at age 84, advises.)
Far from just a history lesson, Aldrin hopes the campaign will revitalize a stunted U.S. space program.
Buzz's vision, summarized by the title of his 2013 book Mission To Mars, contrasts with the modest plan proffered by NASA. While NASA claims its "next giant leap" is Mars, the National Research Council says the agency will not put a man on Mars in the foreseeable future. Constrained by budget cuts and program cancellations from an unenthusiastic White House, NASA has dedicated itself to a manned visit to an asteroid by 2025.
Aldrin offered pointed criticism of the current administration's space policy in an interview with the Washington Post, saying that NASA has nothing to show for billions in spending because it lacks a captivating mission.
“I believe that we are — in other people’s terminology — adrift right now. We cannot take our own people to the space station,” Aldrin said, in reference to U.S. dependence on Russia for shuttle trips to the International Space Station.
While Aldrin was initially supportive of President Obama's space policy, the president's snub of the space program since 2011 -- accompanied by a very personal snub of Aldrin himself, recounted in his book -- led him to retract support.
Aldrin and Collins will likely meet with the president to mark the 45th anniversary of the lunar landing, as they have every five years since meeting with President Richard Nixon in 1969. Armstrong passed away in 2012.
As for the 50th anniversary? Aldrin hopes the White House's occupant will channel his departed crew mate by announcing mankind's next big step.
"I believe that this nation should commit itself within two decades to leading international permanence on the planet Mars,” Buzz said.