Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins met with President President Barack Obama today to commemorate the 45th anniversary since mankind first set foot on the moon. Sadly, this is the first Apollo 11 celebration at the White House without the mission’s commander, Neil Armstrong, who died at the age of 82 in 2012. Armstrong’s widow, Carol, attended the meeting in his stead, reports NBC’s Alan Boyle.

Moonwalkers: Stunning Photos from Apollo 11

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama discussed the impact of Apollo 11, which “inspired generations of Americans — myself included — to dream bigger and reach higher.”

Aldrin served as the mission’s Lunar Module pilot, who landed Armstrong and himself onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, and Collins was the Command Module pilot who orbited overhead during surface operations.

In the White House statement there was also a glimpse into the future, hinting at the next big leap for mankind will be Mars — a goal that NASA is currently working toward.

“Today, under Administrator Bolden’s leadership, the men and women of NASA are building on that proud legacy by preparing for the next giant leap in human exploration — including the first visits of men and women to deep space, to an asteroid, and someday to the surface of Mars — all while partnering with America’s pioneering commercial space industry in new and innovative ways.” — White House statement.

Read the full statement here.

Browse the Discovery News Apollo 11 photo gallery series:

  • Trans-Lunar: Rarely Seen Photos Inside Apollo 11

  • Moon Landing: Rarely Seen Photos Inside Apollo 11

  • Return to Earth: Rarely Seen Photos Inside Apollo 11

Sources: NBC, White House, NASA