Since man began walking on this earth we have looked up at the moon with the dream of one day travelling there. Early science fiction writers such as Jules Verne speculated on what a trip to the moon might be like.
On July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong descended the ladder of the lunar lander and became the first man to set foot on another celestial body. The event is arguably the greatest achievement in human history.
I have always been a strong supporter of the manned space program. I think it is inexcusable that we have spent the last 35 years twittling our thumbs and reducing NASA's budgets rather than celebrating the 10th anniversary of landing a man on Mars!!
I recently saw an interview with an ex-NASA engineer from the 1970's that said the team of engineers were all ready for the challenge of how to land a man on Mars when the rug got pulled out from under them. There was neither the political will nor the budgeted funds to make it viable.
In the meantime, we got a rather uninspiring Space Shuttle program which never reached the potential it was boasted to achieve.
In 2004 President Bush challenged NASA to return us to the moon and use the new technology that would be developed to put a man on Mars.
Finally at least a little vision cast from the White House!!
It would not rival John Kennedy's invoking our reaching the moon by the end of the decade speech, but it was enough to get the ball rolling. However, because of budget cuts due to the economic crisis the new Constellation program to put a man back on the moon will be delayed to at least 2015. Currently the Obama administration is reviewing NASA's budget for possible further cuts. I pray that isn't the case.
Man has to explore. We decline as a civilization when we have no new horizons to conquer. So on this anniversary I want to salute those first brave explorers, Niel Armstrong, Buzz Aldren, and Michael Collins, who left our planet and for the first time walked on the moon.
It was truly "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."