It's hard to describe to someone not around back then how exciting it was. Every lift-off was an event, every orbit and spacewalk and moon landing after July 20, 1969 was a big deal, and Apollo 11 the biggest deal of all.
It wasn't the first time we'd seen Earth from space, as we got pictures from the Mercury and Gemini flights and from the 1968 Christmas flight around the moon, but it was the first time we saw it when human beings had stepped foot on lunar soil.
Seeing the Earth that way...for a time people really had a different perception. It lives on in the Save The Planet movement today, but I'm not sure if people today give much thought to it anymore, to the wonder we felt and the excitement of the whole thing. The entire world literally watched Neil Armstrong step on the moon. I was too little to stay up until the wee hours, but my parents did, and they never forgot it. JFK said in the early '60s that we'd land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and we did.
Astronauts were celebrities! We even had a local kiddie show here called Major Mudd, with the setting a spaceship. My sister and I loved that show. ;)
We cried over the three astonauts who died on the lift-off pad when a fire broke out in '67, and prayed that the Apollo 13 astronauts would come back to us safely.
It's amazing to think of the technology of the time able to send men to the moon, have them land and explore, and come back safely.
And, for a fannish slant, Star Trek went through its entire original run before we stepped foot on the moon, having been cancelled in the spring of 1969, but Star Trek's spirit lived on. When The Big Bang Theory shows scientists geeking over Star Trek and comics, it's true, because the scientists have always enjoyed Trek. And comics! ;)
Quite the anniversary.