NASA gears up for return to moon

July 16, 2009 7:56:12 AM PDT
Thursday is the 40th anniversary of NASA's first the launch to the moon. As we look back, there is a group of men and women who can't wait to see what NASA does next. They are the new class of astronauts to join NASA.
[INTERACTIVE]: Take a look at the history of lunar exploration It's been 40 years since Americans made it to the moon, and nearly 37 years since we left for the last time. Now there are tentative plans to go back with a new generation of astronauts who don't really remember the last time.

Brand new astronaut Mark Vande Hei was two years old when Neil Armstrong stepped out on the moon.

"If I claimed I remember it, it would probably only be from watching a documentary," said Vande Hei.

Serena Anon, another new astronaut, wasn't even born. Now she has the chance to be the first woman there.

"I would love to go to the moon, absolutely," said Anon.

Anon and Vande Hei are two of the 11 brand new astronauts NASA recently named. Part of a truly new generation, their space experience is framed not by America's race to the moon, but by tragedy leaving earth.

"I certainly remember the Challenger disaster. That sticks out very strongly in my mind," said Vande Hei.

Anon recalled, "I was 10 years old, in my fifth grade science class. Another teacher came in and said we just lost Challenger and that was a big deal."

It is they say a reminder of the danger in space, but just a starting point for their lifelong ambitions to get there and beyond where we went 40 years ago.

"As Americans, we've got a culture of people who were willing to go ahead and make a big change, travel across the ocean and leave behind a lot. We did it across the country. Going to the moon and going to Mars is a continuation of that same spirit," said Vande Hei.

The new class gets together for the first time next month to start training. It will be at least five years before any of them are ready to go to space.

On Thursday, we expect NASA to release newly restored footage of the first moonwalk. NASA tells us it will feature 15 moments from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's historic moment 40 years ago on Monday.

Starting at 6:32am today, you can hear the audio of the entire Apollo 11 mission, from two hours before launch to splashdown -- all played exactly 40 years later.

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