This past Saturday, a legend of space exploration – American Astronaut Neil Armstrong – died of complications from a cardiovascular operation earlier in the month. Armstrong was 82, and he was a celebrated American hero and celebrity after successfully becoming the first human being to walk upon the surface of the moon in July of 1969.
Unfortunately, despite the country losing one of its greatest heroes, TV news stations failed to announce the event – a situation lamented by Huffington Post writer David Bauder.
“In the hours after Armstrong’s death was announced, news networks were airing canned programming – jailhouse documentaries, a rerun interview with Rielle Hunter, Mike Huckabee’s weekend show. Menacing satellite pictures of Tropical Storm Isaac had much more air time than Armstrong’s dusty hops on the lunar surface. Talk of the upcoming GOP national convention sucked up the air.” (4)
Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, and NASA was the first organization to issue an immediate press release about the death of one of its most well-known former astronauts.
Armstrong first traveled in space in 1966 on the Gemini 8 mission, when a thruster malfunctioned and threatened to send the crew spiraling out into space. Armstrong piloted the craft back to Earth. After his brush with death, he went back into space in 1969 to achieve the 250,000 mile trip to the moon, and became the first human to step foot on the lunar landscape.
One Small Step for a Man – One Giant Leap for Mankind
Armstrong’s success on Apollo 11 marked a point when America crossed the finish line before the Russians could make it to the lunar surface – at a time when America was still feeling bested by the Russians after the U.S.S.R. had launched the first satellite – Sputnik – into orbit around the Earth in 1957.
Neil Armstrong received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and left NASA in 1971 to teach engineering at the University of Cincinnati. By most accounts, Armstrong went on to live a quiet life, rarely offering interviews or entering into the public limelight. He did acknowledge the significance of the event – and what it meant for future space travel – in one particular interview where he said:
“Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go.” (1)
After receiving news of Armstrong’s passing this weekend, President Obama issued a public statement in tribute of the former Astronaut.
“Neil was among the greatest of American heroes — not just of his time, but of all time.” (1)
NASA Honors Its Greatest Hero
NASA was one of the first organizations to issue a press release in response to Armstrong’s passing. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told reporters:
“As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind’s first small step on a world beyond our own.” (2)
Bolden also acknowledge the future that the success of Apolla 11 represented for American space flight, and the future of space exploration for all humans living on Earth.
“As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut and true American hero.”
The image of Neil taking those first steps on the lunar surface, with his large space-boots kicking up moon-dust, sparked the imagination and dreams of not only future astronauts, but many other kids that would become the next generation of space exploration, working toward becoming NASA engineers and technicians. He molded the imagination of sci-fi writers who dreamed up new Sci-Fi novels and TV episodes that portrayed a future where humanity traveled among the stars aboard starships.
Armstrong’s Family Responds
Armstrong’s own family, likely somewhat prepared for the possibility that Neil would not make it through the surgeries without some complications, issued a public statement after Armstrong passed away.
“Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather and friend. Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job.” (3)
Here at Top Secret Writers, we have always tried to celebrate the spirit of exploration, adventure, and dreaming beyond bounds and limitations. For that reason, the passing of Armstrong feels particularly poignant – he was one person that served as a perfect example of what it means to dream big, but to live humbly.
This was best described by his own family when they wrote:
“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”
The family went on to ask the public to honor Neil in a very simple way:
“…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.”