Speaking to thousands of people gathered in St.
Peter's Square for his Sunday address, the pontiff remembered the moment astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and urged the world to do more for our planet.
"Fifty years ago man set foot on the moon, realizing an extraordinary dream," the pope said.
"May the memory of that great step for humanity ignite the desire to progress together towards even greater goals: more dignity for the weak, more justice among peoples, more future for our common home." The historic Apollo 11 mission, composed by first moonwalker Neil Armstrong and fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, enthralled people around the world in 1969.
Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died in 2012 at age 82.
Collins, the command module pilot who stayed in lunar orbit while Aldrin and Armstrong hopped around the lunar surface collecting samples, is now 88 while Aldrin is 89.
Unlike the Apollo program that put astronauts on the moon 50 years ago, NASA is gearing up for a long term presence on Earth's satellite that the agency says will eventually enable humans to reach Mars.
The next manned mission to the moon will require leaps in robotic technologies and a plan for NASA to work with private companies such as Elon Musk's SpaceX or Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to help cut the cost of space travel.
Using NASA's Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket being built for a debut flight in late 2020, the agency is aiming to return humans to the moon by 2024 in an accelerated timeline set in March by the Trump administration.
No humans have launched from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 and the last manned mission to the moon was almost a half-century ago in 1972, when Cold War era tensions underscored President John F.
Kennedy's push to prove technologies that landed the first humans on the lunar surface.