Behold, and be humbled:
This, here on that little pixel in the middle, was the exact spot where humanity made its first steps on a body other than on our cradle of life. That’s the landing site of Apollo 11, which some of you may remember landed on the moon (July 20th, 1969) and Neil Armstrong made his one small step. If we do not manage to off ourselves through negligence or stupidity, we will someday see this little patch of our natural satellite as a clear spot dividing the past of humanity from its still more glorious future.
Despite the nationalism that funded this moonshot, despite the implicit competition with the Ruskies and the ulterior motives, the fact is, at that spot, we first transcended our earthly confines, and were able to look up at our own home from afar. Neil Armstrong and the Apollo missions came in peace for all mankind, leaving these small traces of all of us on our lonely companion for all of history.
Will we go back to the moon any time soon? Eventually, certainly, but I doubt that we have the money or reasons to do so now. Non-manned missions get you more bang for your buck (costing fractions of single space-launches), and they do much more science for us. Look at the Cassini Mission, returning gorgeous images of Saturn for 80 million a year, and that could be running until at least 2017. Spirit and Opportunity were set to go on for 90 days, but they are both well past their 1000th day. This would be impossible with manned missions, and yet they continue to truck faithfully across the martian plains.
In the long run, these first steps will be seen as laughably small and conservative. Who knows, given the right technology, trips to the Jovian moons could be as commonplace as trips to foreign continents are now. Probably it will not be for 100s of years, but in any case, the precedent has been set. Humanity has been beyond its doorstep, but only just. Consider the following, and be truly humbled at the true smallness of our steps:
We’ve gone far, in local terms. But the stars are calling us, friends, and we still have a very long way to go before we can answer.