In the early hours of July 21st, 1969, shortly after the Apollo Lunar Module landed on its surface, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to step foot on the Moon. 28 years later, Buzz wrote a letter to Barry Goldman, a professor at the University of Maryland.
(Many thanks to Benjamin Cole.)
September 25, 1997
Dear Mr. Goldman,
I am writing to you to share some of my personal ideas and thoughts about my experiences related to the moon landing.
I have often described the moon as a “magnificent desolation.” Its rocky horizon curved against the deep black of space, making it perfectly obvious that we were standing on a ball spinning through the universe.
When I planted the American flag on the dusty surface of the moon, I had an unusual thought: A billion people were watching me on television. Human beings had never been farther away than we were nor had more people thinking about them!
I think the spirit and the sense of involvement exhibited by the numbers of people who remember where they were when that event happened make it even more apparent to me over the years that the moonwalk added value to the lives of all the people who participated in it. Every person felt good about the nation achieving it--that the world, that humanity could have done this.
I have snapshots of myself on the moon that will always remind me of that strange and fascinating place. Someday in the future as people are mulling over their vacation plans, I hope they’ll choose to fly into space. It’s the trip of a lifetime.
Regarding your questions of space exploration in 50 years: all of the rationales reduce to one simple truth: we will walk on Mars in the spirit and wonder that sets our species apart.