Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon: In Memoriam–UPDATE 2

Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon: In Memoriam–UPDATE 2

UPDATE:  This article has been updated throughout, most recently by adding NASA Administrator Bolden’s statement.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, died today at the age of 82.

In a statement posted on the Internet,  Armstrong’s family says that he died “following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.”  The statement continues: “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”


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A naval aviator from 1949-1952, Armstrong went to work for NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), in 1955 where he was an engineer, test pilot and administrator.   He was chosen in the second group of astronauts in 1962.  He was the command pilot for Gemini 8, conducting the first successful docking of two space vehicles.

He will be forever remembered, however, as the commander of Apollo 11 and the first man to set foot on the Moon.  Along with lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot Mike Collins, the three entered the history books on July 20, 1969 when the lunar module, Eagle, landed at “Tranquillity Base” on the surface of the Moon.

Following the Obama Administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program, Armstrong emerged as a passionate advocate for U.S. leadership in human spaceflight and returning humans to the Moon.  In testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on September 22, 2011, he  said the “absence of a master plan [for human spaceflight] that is understood and supported by government, industry, academia and society as a whole frustrates everyone.  NASA itself, riven by conflicting forces and the dashed hopes of canceled programs, must find ways of restoring hope and confidence to a confused and disconsolate work force.”

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden said that “As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them….Besides being one of America’s greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all….As we enter this next era of exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut and true American hero.”

Editor’s Note:   I had the privilege — and it truly was — of working with Neil when he was a member and I the Executive Director of the 1985-1986 National Commission on Space (often called the Paine Commission after our chairman, Tom Paine).  He was usually very quiet for most of any given meeting, but then would voice the most profound observation of the day and refocus the group.   The Challenger tragedy happened half-way through our study and Neil agreed to serve on the Rogers Commission that investigated that accident, but he somehow managed to remain engaged with us as well during that difficult time.   He was not just an excellent engineer and forward thinker, but a really nice person. 

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