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Fifty years after Moon mission, Apollo astronauts meet at historic launchpad

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Fifty years ago on Tuesday, three American astronauts set off from Florida for the Moon on a mission that would change the way we see humanity’s place in the universe.

The crew’s surviving members, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, are set to reunite at the same launchpad on Tuesday, the start of a week-long series of events commemorating Apollo 11.

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Their commander and the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, passed away in 2012.

But Aldrin and Collins, 89 and 88 respectively, will meet Tuesday at precisely 9:32 am (1332 GMT) at the Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A to kick off the festivities.

Their spacecraft took four days to reach the Moon, before its lunar module, known as “Eagle,” touched the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. Armstrong emerged a few hours later.

Collins remained in lunar orbit in the command module Columbia, their only means of returning back to Earth.

“They knew, I knew, if they couldn’t get off for some reason there was nothing I could do about it,” he told reporters in New York in May as part of a series of events. “I had no landing gear on Columbia, I could not go down and rescue them.”

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Aldrin has remained relatively more elusive but has also taken part in a few events, including a gala dinner last Saturday where the cheapest ticket cost $1,000.

Aging but active on Twitter, and always seen in stars-and-stripes socks, Aldrin has faced health scares and family feuds, culminating in a court case over finances, which was settled in March.

On Tuesday, he will be the undeniable star of the show, as the second man to have stepped foot on the Moon. Only four of the 12 men who have done so remain alive.

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– Uncertain future –

Despite the festivities, neither the US nor any other country has managed to return a human to the Moon since 1972, the year of the final Apollo mission.

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President George Bush promised to do so in 1989, as did his son president George W Bush in 2004, while pledging to also march forward to Mars.

But they both ran up against a Congress that wasn’t inclined to fund the adventures, with public opinion markedly changed since the height of the Cold War.

For his part, President Donald Trump relaunched the race to re-conquer the Moon and Mars after taking office in 2017. But the immediate effect has been to create turbulence within the space agency.

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Last week, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine fired the head of the human space exploration directorate Bill Gerstenmaier, likely over disagreements over the 2024 ultimatum set by Trump to return an American to the Moon.

Five years appears unlikely given that neither the rocket, capsule or lander are yet ready or even finalized.

“We don’t have a lot of time to waste, if we’re going to have new leadership, it needs to happen now,” Bridenstine told CSPAN last week.


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Internet slams ‘disgusting’ Donald Trump Jr. after he skates for killing endangered Mongolian sheep

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According to new reports, Donald Trump Jr. illegally shot and killed an endangered argali sheep on a taxpayer-funded hunting trip in Western Mongolia in August — and the Mongolian government retroactively gave him a permit rather than tread on the toes of the U.S. government.

The report was met with outrage on social media, with commenters blasting Trump Jr.'s bloodthirst for endangered animals and the wealth and privilege that allowed him to kill them with no accountability. Some even compared it to the right-wing outrage about Hunter Biden being given a free position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

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Roman Polanski blames Harvey Weinstein for rape accusation and says media ‘making me a monster’

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Film director Roman Polanski has spoken out for the first time since another woman accused him of rape, declaring that the media are "trying to make me into a monster".

And in an extraordinary twist he blamed Harvey Weinstein for his woes, in an interview with Paris Match magazine published Wednesday.

He claimed the disgraced Hollywood mogul tried to brand him a "child rapist" to stop him winning an Oscar in 2003 for "The Pianist".

Polanski -- a fugitive from US justice since 1978 after he admitted the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl -- also dismissed the latest rape allegations against him as "absurd".

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‘This is a lie’: Lisa Page pummels Trump for telling blatant falsehoods about her at crazed rally

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Former FBI attorney Lisa Page on Wednesday called out President Donald Trump for once again lying about her at one of his political rallies.

On Tuesday night, Trump told supporters in Pennsylvania that Page supposedly had to file a restraining order against former FBI agent Peter Strzok, with whom she'd had a relationship during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump hedged his claim by telling his supporters, "That's what I heard, I don't know if it's true."

Page, however, took to Twitter to shred the president for repeating a blatant falsehood.

"This is a lie," she wrote. "Nothing like this ever happened. I wish we had a president who knew how to act like one."

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