President Barack Obama today hailed the Apollo 11 astronauts as "three American heroes," and claimed such exploration spurs ingenuity and inspires students in math and science. Obama commemorated the moment, 40 years ago today, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took man's first steps on the moon. Obama says Armstrong, Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins were the touchstone for excellence in exploration.
The president compared the astronauts' accomplishment to one of his own goals: America having the highest high school graduation rates in the world by 2020. Astronauts attending the ceremony at the White House, including others from Apollo missions, made a pitch for a mission to Mars.