A new CBS News poll says a majority of Americans -- 51 percent -- believe the U.S. should send a mission to Mars.
But CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports from Washington that a Mars landing might be a ways off.
Today's celebration is tempered by disappointment that America, in the four decades since the Apollo 11 mission, has not probed deeper into the unknown. Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man to step onto the moon, wants America to be first on Mars.
"To me, exploration is going to some place you haven't been before," Aldrin said.
Gene Cernan, who was the last man to walk on the moon in 1972, says the spirit of Apollo has been lost.
"I really believed that we'd be back to the moon by the end of that decade and on our way to Mars by the turn of Twentieth Century," Cernan said.
The achievements have been less grandiose. The shuttle program, which today featured a little-noted space walk outside the International Space Station, is set to end next year. While the President has called for a return to the moon by 2020, funding is already being cut.
But budget pressures are nothing new. Even President Kennedy bemoaned the expense of racing Russia to the moon.
"Everything that we do ought to really be tied into getting onto the moon ahead of the Russians," President Kennedy said in 1962. "Otherwise we shouldn't be spending this kind of money because I'm not that interested in space."
For America, Apollo 11 was the payoff. Aldrin says it should have been the beginning.
"We lit the engine and we opened the door to the future of exploration," Aldrin said.
Forty years later, that future seems less clear than it was that July night in 1969.