Four decades ago this summer, I stood next to a colleague and helped set up some instruments on a distant place.
I walked slowly to deploy the devices, and together we worked to erect our flag atop a shiny silver pole with an extra bounce in my step. Amidst our work, we stopped to take a phone call from home.
My colleague was Neil Armstrong, the instruments lunar science, and the place was Tranquility Base on the surface of the moon. The call was from the president of the United States, and the whole world — literally — was listening in.
Neil and I, along with Mike Collins still in lunar orbit, had voyaged to the moon aboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft, tiny when compared to today's Space Shuttle and International Space Station.
We had accomplished a challenge made eight years before by President Kennedy, who made sending us to the moon a national goal to show the world what peaceful scientific discovery and exploration we could do when the entire nation pulled together.
The pictures we and our fellow lunar astronauts took of the moon and the Earth changed forever our concept of our place in the universe.
We saw the Earth as alone, fragile and in need of protecting and preserving. Those images helped give birth to the environmental movement.
The science taught us something about how planetary bodies are formed, how similar — and how different — they are.
But above all, voyaging to the moon was a demonstration of national political will and of the ability of our industrial system to create new technologies and capabilities, many of which are still being exploited today by commercial industry.
It was a privilege and an honor to be a part of that historic flight. But four decades later, it's time we called the next generation to grander missions in space, to Mars and beyond. In that way, we can continue our journey.