Neil Armstrong, R.I.P.
July 20, 1969 is one of those days etched forever in my memory. I was ten years old, and already a huge science fiction fan. It was inevitable, especially after I begged them, that my parents let me to stay up late to witness the first steps taken by a human being on the Moon. Today, the man who took those steps, Neil Armstrong, left this world again. According to the AP:
Neil Armstrong was a quiet, self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step onto the moon. The modest man, who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter-million miles away, died Saturday. He was 82.
Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, his family said in a statement. It didn’t say where he died; he had lived in suburban Cincinnati.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969, capping the most daring of the 20th century’s scientific expeditions. His first words after setting foot on the surface are etched in history books and the memories of those who heard them in a live broadcast.
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said.
That first landing, aside from its obvious historicity, was always special to me for another reason. Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon whose role in Apollo 11 is sometimes forgotten (as is Michael Collins, who flew the command module while his colleagues were on the surface), was from right up the road from me in Montclair, New Jersey. There was a lot of pride involved back then in being able to say a fellow New Jerseyan had gone to the Moon.
Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins: three American heroes. Now one of them is gone, but never to be forgotten.
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