U.S. President Barack Obama received Tuesday at the White House two of the three astronauts who took part in the Apollo 11 mission on the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Obama met privately with Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and the wife of Neil Armstrong, who died two years ago and who on July 20, 1969, was the first man to set foot on the moon's surface.

The president recalled that 45 years ago the whole world was watching how the United States put someone on the moon, "a seminal moment not just in our country's history, but the history of all humankind."

"The three brave astronauts of Apollo 11 - Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins - took the first small steps of our giant leap into the future," the president said in a statement.

Obama noted that since then both the astronauts and their families have been an example of American ingenuity and of the achievements of humanity, for which he thanked them for their service to the country as educators and role models who have "inspired generations of Americans - myself included - to dream bigger and reach higher."

As to the legacy of the Apollo 11 astronauts, NASA is preparing to take "the next giant leap" in human exploration, Obama said, including the first manned spaceships to deep space, to an asteroid and to Mars, while working together with the commercial space sector "in new and innovative ways." EFE