As an example, Dick points to the integrated circuit, commonly referred to as a computer chip. The Apollo Guidance Computer, used for the Apollo program, was the largest single consumer of integrated circuits between 1961 and 1965.
"NASA did not invent the integrated circuit, but a good case could be made that it played a major role in making the integrated circuit commercially viable," he said.
In addition to encouraging the push toward the development of the personal computer, Bennett also credits the Apollo program for sowing the seeds of the Internet.
"I wouldn't attribute the technological advances solely to Apollo, but I do think that the inspiration of 'we're going to the moon' made things happen much more quickly than they would have happened otherwise," Bennett said.
Once on the moon, Armstrong and Aldrin spent about two and a half hours exploring the surface. They collected 47 pounds (21 kilograms) of surface material to be returned to Earth for analysis.
Over the next several years, space scientists continued to visit and study the moon, learning about its composition, age, and rocks and about the similarities between the moon and Earth. Extensive testing found no evidence for life, past or present, on the moon.
Active human exploration of the moon came to an end on December 19, 1972, when Apollo 17 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, ending a 12-day mission.
"The moon program was a race, and when we won that race, interest dwindled from the political point of view," Dick said. "But not from the scientific point of view. Scientists remained eager to learn even more."
The continuing interest in the moon, according to Dick, is one of the reasons President George W. Bush's Vision for U.S. Space Explorationoutlined in a speech at NASA headquarters on January 14is so important.
The vision, which has been widely criticized for its funding, appropriateness, and time line, calls for a return to the moon no later than 2020. The idea is to foster further scientific study of Earth's satellite and to use it as a stepping stone to get to Mars and beyond.
"The new space vision will perhaps have an even broader impact than the moon, and certainly a more sustained one," Dick said. "In addition to technologies that will be developed, the new space vision carries on the long American tradition of exploration in the spirit of Lewis and Clark."
Bennett believes that, if properly funded, humans could be back on the moon much sooner than 2020. He said the inspiration gleaned from going back to the moon and having a permanent moon base could even help foster world peace.
"Having people of all nationalities and cultures working together on the moon would send an incredible message to those trying to get along down here," he said.
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