40 years ago, I was in Florida for the launch of Apollo 11 in 1969. Even though I was a kid, I remember it with great clarity as a most awesome experience. I also remember watching on a black and white tv the images of man's first steps on the Moon. Over the years I have followed many NASA programs. We have done much in 40 years, but I am somewhat disappointed that the country could have done so much more by this time--we simply did not have the will to do so.
If you ever get a chance to see a launch in person, it is an experience you will never forget. I have seen a shuttle launch and several of the Apollo launches. The Apollo was much more graceful off the pad and even louder than the shuttle, making the ground shake and the reverberations drumming on your chest were unbelievable even at over 3 miles away. Let me tell you, people wept with tears of joy, relief, awe and pride.
The Apollo mission was one of exploration and adventure. The Shuttle program, while very useful, was simply transpotation to low earth orbit where some experiments could be conducted and some technologies developed. Will we send men to Mars? Will we fund any further NASA missions other than the occasional unmanned pod? Will we continue to receive the spinnoff benefits of an advanced space program? The shuttle will "retire" in about a year. It will be some time before such a launch will shake the ground again.