Forty years ago this week, two men took steps that would make them overnight legends and land them an honored place in history. Neil Alden Armstrong, a native Ohioan, and Edwin Eugene Buzz Aldrin, Jr., from Glen Ridge, New Jersey, did not cross paths until they began working for NASA. But leading up to that point, their paths shared many similarities. Both turned down initial opportunities to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and both men went on to pursue military careers. Armstrong earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University in 1955, while Aldrin attended West Point, where he graduated third in his class. Aldrin served as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and flew 66 combat missions as a jet fighter pilot in the Korean War. As a Naval Aviator in the Korean War, Armstrong flew 78 missions for a total of 121 hours in the air. While both men continued to perfect their piloting skills after the war, the global stage was being set for a race to the moon. In 1961, President Kennedy challenged the nation to be the first to send a man to the moon. “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” Kennedy said. In 1962, Armstrong submitted an application to be a part of NASA’s second group of astronauts and although his application was received past deadline, he received a call inviting him to join the astronaut corps, which the media had nicknamed “the New Nine.” The following year, Aldrin was selected to be a member of the third group of astronauts. In 1968, Deke Slatyon, NASA’s Director of Flight Crew Operations at the time, offered Armstrong the position of commander of Apollo 11, after he had served as backup commander for Apollo 8. Aldrin was made lunar module pilot, and Michael Collins was appointed as command module pilot. During a March 1969 meeting between Slayton and other NASA officials, it was determined that Armstrong would be the first man on the moon. While rumors circulated that management made this selection based on the sense that Armstrong did not have a big ego, the official reason—announced at an April 14, 1969 press conference—was the design of the Lunar Module cabin and its relation to the positioning of the astronauts. Slayton also commented at the time that he thought it made sense, from a protocol standpoint, for the commander to “be the first guy out.” In a recent interview with the New York Times, when asked if it was “annoying” to go second, Aldrin said, “No. At that time I wasn’t looking for more laurels.”In the end, there was only one “first” that mattered. For eight years following Kennedy’s challenge to the nation, the men and women of Texas’ own Johnson Space Center, then called the Manned Spacecraft Center, worked tirelessly toward the goal of successfully landing our astronauts on the moon. On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the moon. With tremendous support and guidance from Mission Control, the Lunar Module safely touched down on the moon’s surface and Armstrong reported, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The Eagle was then depressurized, and after the hatch was opened, Armstrong descended the ladder and placed his left foot on the moon’s surface. He then famously said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”The Apollo 11’s completed mission marked an historic achievement for our nation, paved the way for future lunar landings, and ignited in Americans a strong sense of pride, patriotism, and an interest in innovation, exploration and discovery. Today, human space flight remains a source of inspiration and wonder for all Americans, and it is vital to our security and prosperity on multiple levels. As President Obama’s Administration undertakes a review of human space flight, I will be working to ensure that this mission remains the flagship program at NASA—not only because of its importance to Houston and Texas at large, but also because our nation cannot afford to lose our competitive edge in space exploration. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of our nation’s historic landing on the moon, I pledge to continue to do all I can to support the space program and the hard work being done by the men and women of Johnson Space Center – a source of pride for all Texans. Through their efforts, we can ensure that America’s possibilities for exploration and discovery are endless. Sen. Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.