It was 40 years ago this week that two earthlings first set foot on the moon, and every media outlet worth its salt has done some sort of retrospective about it. Most end with the question of where we go from here: former president Bush announced plans for a return to the moon, but current president Obama, having inherited a wretched economy, seems less inclined to press for it.

The astronauts, of course, want to go to Mars.

A big part of me hopes they do, and in my lifetime.

I grew up with the space program, and loved it. I could name every astronaut and capsule in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, and tell you how many orbits they spent in space. I will never forget Christmas Eve of 1968, when the crew of Apollo 8 read Genesis 1:1-10 as they orbited the moon and wished God’s blessings on “all of you on the good earth.” That, and pictures of the earth such as the famous “big blue marble” shot taken by the Apollo 17 crew, did much to help me and many others see the earth in a whole new perspective.

I had just graduated from high school when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first stepped onto the moon, while Mike Collins manned the orbiter above. Their exploits, and those of astronauts before and after them, inspired a generation to dream, and to dream big.

There will always be those who question the costs of the space program, which are considerable. We can think of many other worthy causes that could use the money. Yet, I can’t think of anything else that has the power to inspire in quite the same way, and it’s hard to put a price tag on dreams.

[NASA photos]

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