Almost a year before I was born a couple of Americans landed on the moon.
I still find that amazing (and yes, that makes me 39). There are some big ideas out there but blasting off into space on a huge rocket and then guiding it to the surface of the moon is just massive. Thinking about doing it now seems difficult enough but forty years ago...?!
My dad was a big sci-fi fan, brought up reading Dan Dare and watching Flash Gordon. When he was a teenager in the mid to late 50s, he believed that in the near future - and certainly within his lifetime - man would travel into space and walk on the moon. Other kids teased and ridiculed him - I guess it would be like saying some one will travel back in time in the next dozen years or so. But, when he was only in his late twenties, he watched as one small step was taken on the surface of another planetary body.
Sadly, since then, things seemed to have slowed down. After landing on the moon, I suspect many people thought we'd have visited Mars and perhaps a few other planets by now. Perhaps by 1999 we'd have a base on the moon and by 2001 we'd be embarking on missions to Jupiter from huge space stations. If we could reach the Moon by 1969 after ten years of hard work then think of what could be achieved in another 40 years!
I'm sure many consider space travel a waste of time and vast resources. People probably thought the same about sailing off to the Americas or travelling beyond the limits of their own town. Each to their own, I guess. It still doesn't take away mankind's amazingly giant leap that was achieved in July 1969.