Neil Armstrong’s family along with fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, command module pilot Mike Collins and Apollo 13 commander Jim Lovell were all on hand to pay tribute to Neil Armstrong as the historic Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center was renamed after the first man to set foot on the surface of the moon.

NASA Neil Armstrong Building

Aldrin and Collins fondly recalled the man that made history today while a live feed from the International Space Station was used to convey congratulations from Expedition 40 commander Steve Swanson and flight engineer Reid Wiseman.

Message from the International Space Station

“These are heroes that I’ve had my entire life, known these names every day I’ve lived,” said Wiseman, an F-14 carrier pilot who was born six years after Armstrong made his famous steps. “I just want to say an enormous thank you. Thank you for putting our country on this path that we remain on today. Without you gentlemen, I wouldn’t be up here today. So my dreams came true, thanks to them.”

Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins began their journey on a Saturn 5 rocket on July 16, 1969. Leaving Collins behind in a lunar orbit, Aldrin and Armstrong landed on the moon July 20, 1969.

Armstrong passed away on August 25, 2012 at the age of 82.

The “O&C” building was built in 1963 to process Gemini Capsules and later the key components in the moon landing six years. The building will now be called the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.

The building was also the home to departing astronauts with a number of “motel rooms” they used to sleep the nights before departure as well as to suit up for their journeys.

Once the Apollo program ran its course, NASA used the building for the Skylab space station, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and the space shuttle program before it was utilized for component testing for the ISS.

Presently, the building is being used to assemble the first Orion capsule that NASA hopes will carry astronauts back to the moon and ultimately to Mars.

“It’s altogether fitting that today we rename this facility the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building,” said NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden. “Throughout his life he served his country as an astronaut, an aerospace engineer, a naval aviator, a test pilot and a university professor, and he constantly challenged all of us to expand the boundaries of the possible.

“He along with his crewmates, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, are a bridge from NASA’s historic journey to the moon 45 years ago to our path to Mars today.”

Aldrin and Collins speak about Armstrong

Aldrin, who followed Armstrong by mere minutes, praised his commander, saying Armstrong was “one of the best, certainly the best test pilot, I feel, that was selected for the NASA program.”

“That powerful, powerful combination of curiosity and intelligence propelled him to the top of his profession,” Collins said. Then, speaking to the men and women who work in the building today, Collins said Armstrong would “enjoy prowling around this building, every nook and cranny.”

“More than anyone else I have known, I felt he had an intuitive grasp of flight machinery and its complexity and of the intricate knowledge required by you in the jobs that you perform here daily,” Collins said.

It was a proud moment for a true American hero