As New Hampshire and America celebrate and reflect on this week, the 50th anniversary of our first moon landing, we are mindful of the part Granite Staters have played in space exploration.

On any drive north on I-93 in Concord, we look for the Redstone rocket at the McAuliffe-Shepard Planetarium. Alan Shepard of Derry rode atop another Redstone rocket to become America’s first man in space.

How far, and fast, the space program came from that tiny rocket and first flight (15 minutes in 1961) to the massive Saturn 5 rockets that would take Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and eventually a stubborn and indomitable Shepard to the moon, and safely home again, within a decade.

Space exploration hasn’t come without a price.

Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White died on the ground while testing the first Apollo capsule.

Beloved Concord High teacher Christa McAuliffe perished with her six crewmates in the 1986 Challenger shuttle explosion, the first of two shuttle disasters.

When Granite Staters remember her, it is often for her smile and infectious enthusiasm.

Now, another space shuttle veteran from New Hampshire, Dr. Lee Morin of Manchester is helping NASA prepare for reentry into the moon’s atmosphere with the Orion project.

Space will always draw the attention and spur the wanderlust of humans. Granite Staters have contributed to a lot of space exploration’s first “small” steps. We expect they will continue to help with the next giant leaps for mankind.