Landing a man on the moon to do it before the Russians was crazy enough.
The value was purely symbolic, and as far as symbolism goes, the moon has it all over nationalism. The moon has been a symbol since humanity began. She is Luna, who gave us the name for the months of the year, the faithful and lonely companion of Earth who lives in our oldest poems and crosses the sky of our dreams. She pulls up the tides and the blood in the bodies of women. She is the archetype who is always on the verge of stereotype, but never gets there because no matter how many bad songs and broken hearts she uses up, she is still just as powerful when you look up and see her in the sky growing full and sickle-thin. She works her poetic charms in English, Russian, German and every other language, the supreme metaphor.
So how much does a metaphor weigh? A lot more than NASA thinks. The first man on the moon wasn't an American or a Russian, it was The Man in the Moon we all saw when we were kids, and somebody older showed him to us. That's the first man on the moon, her permanent resident, and now he's got a NASA rocket at his backside.
Who does the moon belong to anyway? Can we just blow a hole in it without asking all the billions of people on Earth who look up at the sky every night and wonder at her beauty and talk to it?
They used to call the mentally ill lunatics. But now I wonder who the real lunatics are. And if there is water on the moon, what are we going to do with it? Grow moon-corn for ethanol until we kill the Earth?