I was corresponding with a friend about my recollection of the lunar landing. Here's what I said:
I have two recollections. One was seeing the lunar landings at home. It was a summer night, and we had relatives over. We watched it on a B&W TV with rabbit ears.
I also have a recollection, I think in 5-6th grade, of TVs set up in the school hallways to play NASA coverage of the lunar mission. That must have been Apollo 8, a year before.
On the other hand, I think the actual mission took place during Christmas break, so I don't suppose we were seeing live coverage. It may have been a replay.
In retrospect I think it's very interesting to actually travel to a place which painters and poets and stargazers and SF writers have seen and eulogized for thousands of years. All those thousands of years looking up at the sky and gazing at that distant, luminous body. Then, in 1969, some human beings actually have a chance to leave the earth and go there for the first time. That's remarkable.
We've always seen it from afar. Seen it from earth. To be able actually make a trip to the moon, touch down, and look back at the earth from the moon, instead of looking at the moon from the earth, is a remarkable reversal in human perspective. To literally reach out and reverse our viewpoint.
All the more remarkable when you consider the primitive technology of the time.
I also think the Viking 1 exploration of Mars was equally historic. To see another planet from the surface of the planet.
In addition, I think that other unmanned probes which have explored our solar system, as well as the Hubble telescope, have been very interesting.
At the same time, it makes us aware, more than ever, of what a special planet we inhabit. It's by far the most interesting, as well as hospitable, planet in the solar system. Indeed, the only hospitable planet.
And, of course, the sheer scale of the universe imposes a severe limit on how much we can explore. We've already done about as much as we can do.
It was a fairly unique period to live through. An experience which human beings living in the past never had. And while future human beings from now on have the same experience (manned/unmanned exploration of the solar system), we've lost the element of surprise or suspense since we now know what the other moons and planets of our solar system look like up close.