When Bob Hope took Neil Armstrong to Southeast Asia with the USO Tour a few months after the Apollo 11 moon landing, the troops at each show gave the astronaut and former Navy fighter pilot standing ovations whenever he walked on stage.
Armstrong will travel abroad again to bolster troop moral, this time with Armed Forces Entertainment, in association with Morale Entertainment, for the Legends of Aerospace Tour, March 3 to 13, 2010. The first man on the moon will be joined by the last man there, Gene Cernan, who orbited the moon on Apollo 10 and commanded the Apollo 17 landing; and Jim Lovell, who journeyed to the moon on the first orbital mission, Apollo 8, and commanded the Apollo 13 mission that was forced to abort a landing.
This will mark the first time the three astronauts will have traveled together on a goodwill tour, though Armstrong and Cernan have been friends since attending Purdue University together in the early 1950s. They'll be joined by two more flying legends, test pilot Bob Gilliland, the first man to fly the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, and Vietnam veteran Steve Ritchie, the last U.S. Air Force Pilot Ace.
Media personality David Hartman, the first host of "Good Morning America," will moderate panel discussions with the pilots and astronauts at some stops, along with author Jeffrey Kluger, senior writer for Time Magazine and co-author with Lovell on the book Lost Moon, on which director Ron Howard based the film Apollo 13.
The tour will log more than 15,000 flight miles to bring the men in contact with more than 10,000 troops. American Airlines will provide the round-trip, trans-Atlantic transportation. The show will make stops in Southwest Asia (specifics aren't being released for security reasons), and visit wounded troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany on the way back, before returning to a welcome home event in New York at The Intrepid Air & Space Museum on Saturday the 13th.
"I have been waiting my whole life for this opportunity to meet with our service men and women on the front lines," said Jim Lovell. "They are the real heroes. I'm truly looking forward to thanking them for their service in person and sharing some of my experiences with adversity during Apollo 13. I'm sure it's going to be an extraordinary experience."