CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin attended a gala that marked the 50th anniversary of the first year for a year celebrated, noticeably absent, moon landing, even though its nonprofit Space Foundation is a sponsor and it is typically the main attraction.
The black Apollo Celebration Gala, which took place Saturday night under a Saturn V rocket at Kennedy Space Center, featured a panel discussion of astronauts, a prize-giving ceremony, and an auction of memorabilia from outer space.
Hundreds of people attended the sold-out event, including British physicist Brian Cox, who honored Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson with the ShareSpace Foundation's Innovation Award
Branson, whose company is developing a new generation of commercial spacecraft, said in a recorded video that the Apollo missions influenced his generation.
"Space is still hard, really hard, it's still important," Branson said, "There would be no Virgin Galactic, no Virgin Orbit and no Spaceship Company if Apollo astronauts and thousands of talented humans could not accomplish their mission
Dr. Carolyn Williams of the charitable organization From One Hand To AnOTHER received the foundation's Education Award, and former Johnson Space Center director Gerry Griffin, an aviation director for all manned Apollo missions, received the Pioneer Award honored.
"It is very humiliating, it somehow came out of the blue," Griffin said, "It's so nice to know that we've passed the torch this next generation will take us to this next step." [19659034ThisnextstepGriffinsaidisareturnoftheAmericanstotheMoonandfinallytoMars-somethingthatformerApolloastronautsWaltCunninghamHarrisonSchmittRustySchweickartandTomStafforddiscussedduringaconversationwithCox
"We're going through the door for a second, the door is not quite open – we did not go all the way – but it's torn up," said Schweickart, who was piloting the lunar module on Apollo 9, opposite the Associated Press. "Space will leave It's a lot cheaper to go there, and that not only opens up opportunities for people to fly, but because of the reduced cost, real opportunities for innovators to generate new ideas and do things never done before  Aldrin's ShareSpace Foundation is one of the sponsors of the annual Gala, which raises funds for science, technology, engineering, arts and math – or STEAM education – and scholarships from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.
Renowned Brazilian pop artist Romero Britto donated artwork from his "Buzz Aldrin Space Series" for the auction, which also included a behind-the-scenes tour of Virgin Galactic in California and autographed memorabilia from outer space. Tickets ranged from $ 750 to $ 2,500 per person  The expecting absence of the former astronaut comes just one month after he sued two of his adult children and a former shop manager by accusing them of abusing his credit cards transferred from an account and insulted him with dementia. Just weeks before the lawsuit, Andrew and Jan Aldrin filed a petition alleging that their 88-year-old father suffered from memory loss, delusions, paranoia, and confusion.
Andrew and Jan Aldrin and Business Manager Christina Korp are on the Board of Trustees and attended the gala. Aldrin's eldest son, James, is not involved in the lawsuit.
Andrew Aldrin confirmed his father's absence during the gala.
"Sorry dad can not be here, I know some of you are disappointed," said Aldrin. "Ultimately, it's about creating the first generation of Martians."
Buzz Aldrin, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, was part of the Apollo 11 mission that brought the first two humans to the moon on July 20, 1969.
Follow Alex Sanz at https : //twitter.com/AlexSanz and Mike Schneider at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP