Forty years ago Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to set foot on the moon, with an estimated 500 million people watching them via live broadcast below on planet Earth. I was not among those watching - I hadn't been born yet - and there hasn't been a single man-on-the-moon live broadcast in my lifetime. Eugene Cernan was the last man to visit the moon, in 1972.

Aldrin, Cernan, and five other astronauts met in Washington, D.C. yesterday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the moon walk. During a press conference they were at times critical of the state of our nation's space program, urging future generations to surpass their accomplishments, but they also acknowledged the significant expense involved in space exploration. In a discussion on the merits of travel to Mars, David Scott, commander of the Apollo 15 mission, said, "We have to find a reason to go to Mars that will continue the funding."

Is pure exploration reason enough? I look up at the moon at night and it seems almost impossible to me that people have walked its far-off surface. (Of course, there are those who still say it never happened, that the whole moon landing was staged, a hoax.) I get chills listening to Armstrong's recorded voice, some 238,855 miles away, actually experiencing what countless generations had only dreamed about. I can't imagine looking at our planet from the vantage point of space.

But as for reasons to explore? I don't know. My high school biology teacher used to say that the more we know about our world, whether we're sending rockets into space or parsing the atom, the more we know about our Creator. And if "the heavens declare the glory of God," how much more so the galaxies, stars, and the "vast expanse of interstellar ...

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