SATURDAY marked the 50th anniversary of the first time humans set foot on the moon, and the occasion was marked with all sorts of commemorative TV programmes, newspaper supplements and so on.

Apollo 11 was the first of six missions to land successfully on the Moon, giving 12 men (and yes, they were all men) the chance to explore the lunar surface.

The last lunar landing was in 1972, and since then, no-one has been back.

Although the first landing generated an enormous amount of attention, with people glued to their TV screens across the world as the astronauts bounced around in the low lunar gravity, there were those back then who said it was little more than a stunt to gain prestige over the Soviets in the Cold War.

Should not the billions spent on the Space Race have been more legitimately deployed in alleviating poverty here on Earth, they asked.

Today, the same critics might say that tackling climate change would be a greater priority

But there are also those who contend that the Moon missions were a legitimate manifestation of a primal human instinct, to explore uncharted territories, ‘to boldly go where no-one has gone before’, as the famous phrase has it.

Who is right? Should the human race be content with living on the Earth, or is the “outward urge” something to be heeded, to propel people to go beyond the boundaries in search of scientific knowledge?

We have the International Space Station, which has been circling above our heads since 1998, and which has been crewed continually since 2002.

But the prospect of seeing, say, a permanent colony on the Moon, of the sort depicted in the famous film 2001: A Space Odyssey, seems slim.

The chances of any government funding such a thing seem vanishingly small, and surely a project of that magnitude is beyond the financial reach of even the richest space entrepreneur of the Elon Musk type.

But who know what the future might hold?

What is certain is that the Moon, which has fascinated people for millennia, will continue to exercise that same fascination.