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07/20/09 8:20 PM ET

Astros commemorate moon landing

Pregame ceremony, special patches on caps pay homage

HOUSTON -- Cecil Cooper doesn't remember exactly where he was 40 years ago when Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, but the Astros manager knows he was somewhere in the Minor Leagues when Armstrong took "one giant leap for mankind."

On Monday, Cooper was on hand as the Astros commemorated Armstrong's famous moment at Minute Maid Park, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing mission.

Houston welcomed Andrea Mosie, Frank Hughes, Jack Kinzler, Jerry Goodman, Joe Kosmo, Randy Stone and Sylvia Stottlemyer of the NASA team that contributed to the success of the Apollo Program to take part in a pregame ceremony.

"It's just so great to have a chance to come be a part of this," Hughes said. "This relationship between the Astros and the space program has been wonderful. But this time to be able to come here and celebrate is really special with the anniversary of the 40 years since the landing, and we really appreciate the chance to come."

To commemorate the historic event, the Astros players wore special caps featuring the Apollo 11 patch in their game against the Cardinals.

Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger sang the national anthem and the guests from NASA each threw out a first pitch, extending the long list of astronauts and space personnel who have had that honor at an Astros game.

"The Astros have had a great relationship with the astronauts from the very beginning," Astros owner Drayton McLane said. "In 1965, when they opened the Astrodome, the people who threw out the first balls were the original seven astronauts, and they threw out the first pitch that opened the Astrodome."

When Houston said goodbye to the Astrodome in 1999, it was only fitting it called on the most famous astronaut of all to make the final first pitch.

"We invited Neil Armstrong to come, and he normally didn't do events like that, but because the Astros were his team when he was living in Houston and was an astronaut he came from Ohio and threw out the last pitch," McLane said.

Armstrong and fellow astronauts Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins made history when the Apollo 11 command module Eagle touched down on the moon on July 20, 1969. It's a moment that Hughes said still brings pride to the American public 40 years later.

"We've had so many calls and e-mails, it's almost like the country has come back to life for awhile with the program and the event," he said.

From the first pitch at the Astrodome to Monday's first pitches, the Astros have had hundreds of astronauts toss out the first pitch at games, and Minute Maid Park is littered with various types of memorabilia from astronauts who have gone to space.

"Before they go into space we've had them take Astros pennants, ball and all sorts of things," McLane said. "We have those everywhere around the ballpark, and we're very excited to have such a close relationship with the space program."

Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.