Looking back at NASA's Apollo missions

Former NASA Astronaut Alan Bean considers himself one of the luckiest people for getting a chance most people don't get.

"I always felt I was lucky to be part of an organization trying to achieve an impossible dream," said Bean, the lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 and the fourth man to walk on the moon. He was at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, Long Island, on Thursday to look back on his journey nearly 50 years later. 

"It was an impossible dream. Nobody knew how to do it—many people thought it could not be done," Bean said. "But the engineers, the scientists, the designers, the visionaries here on Long Island invented [the lunar module] and built it. It's strange looking by it sure does a good job."

It all happened on Long Island at the Grumman plant. Aeronautical engineer Sam Koeppel worked on the Lunar Excursion Module. His job was one of the most important: ensuring these machines could travel some 240,000 miles away.

"The lives of three astronauts depended on your company doing a good job and building the item that would do its job," Koeppel said.

Their job was a proven a success after Apollo 13's failed flight. NASA Astronaut Fred Haise was on the LEM pilot on that historic and heroic flight.

"To me it was a great adventure—it was a continuation of my flying career. I'd been a NASA test pilot for seven years before I went in the program," Haise said. "So a spacecraft, although very unusual, was another flying machine. It just went to a different place and went a little higher."

The astronauts encourage children to dream big and hope that someday there will be other missions.

"If we want to go back differently and better it's going to take billions and billions again," Bean said. "When America is ready to spend that money on going back to the moon, we'll go do it."