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Former NASA astronaut Buzz Aldrin was noticeably absent from a gala kicking off a yearlong celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the first moon landing, even though his space education foundation is a sponsor and he typically is the star attraction.Hundreds of people attended the sold-out event, including British physicist Brian Cox, who presented Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson with the ShareSpace Foundation's Innovation award.Branson, whose company is developing a new generation of commercial spacecraft, said in a recorded video that the Apollo missions influenced his generation.Andrew Aldrin acknowledged his father's absence during the gala.Buzz Aldrin, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, was part of the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first two humans on the moon on July 20, 1969 .
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