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'One small step ...'

I can tell you exactly where I was at 3:17:40 p.m. Central Standard Time 40 years ago today. My brother and I had been called from our play outdoors to come inside and watch astronauts walk on the moon.

Even as I have trouble some days remembering what I did a week earlier, that memory of the Apollo 11 lunar module landing will forever be vivid in my mind.

As a kid, space travel fascinated me. My dad helped nurture it by spending summer evenings with us staring up at the vast West Texas skies. So I had no problem coming in from the summer heat to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin play (and yes, in the videos below it still looks like they were having way more fun that anyone can imagine) on the lunar surface before heading back to the command module where Mike Collins waited.

NASA video, including launch shots and Walter Cronkite's comments.

Video of Armstrong and Aldrin actually moon walking.

Many years later, when the hubby and I visited Cape Canaveral and saw the items from NASA's history, I was particularly touched by the official insignia patch for Apollo 11. It doesn't follow the usual pattern of listing crew names on it. NASA knew that Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were representing all of us, a point Armstrong made abundantly clear with his powerful first words from another planet.

Yes, it's worth it: Space travel as a unifying point of national pride and avenue for scientific advancement has fallen way too far since the golden age of Apollo.

Maybe it's science fiction overload, coupled with virtual everything that makes NASA's mission seem somewhat quaint and, to many, not as valuable in today's world of terrible terrestrial crises.

And, of course, there are the costs that we, as taxpayers, are asked to cover.

Whatever the reasons, I find it incredibly heartbreaking that the wonder and possibility of advanced space travel is no longer seen as, well, wonderful or imminently possible.

I remember when the 30th anniversary rolled around in 1999, a young woman I worked with lamented that her generation had no transcendent touchstone of human achievement like the moon landing.

Sadly, she was correct. But there's always hope. To me, that's what the U.S. space program embodies: an eternal hope. And personally, I find such possibilities a fine way to spend some of my tax dollars.

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