A soft-spoken, humble, amazing historical American hero died today…
82 year old Neil Armstrong, who made history on July 20, 1969 by being the first man to ever walk on the moon, passed away today following complications from cardiovascular procedures.
Mitt Romney’s statement today on the death of Neil Armstrong:
“Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes. With courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country, he walked where man had never walked before. The moon will miss its first son of earth.
“I met and spoke with Neil Armstrong just a few weeks ago–his passion for space, science and discovery, and his devotion to America will inspire me through my lifetime.”
A few highlights of Armstrong’s life:
Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, on a farm in Ohio. He took his first airplane ride at age 6 and developed a fascination with aviation that prompted him to build model airplanes and conduct experiments in a homemade wind tunnel. He was licensed to fly at 16, before he got his driver’s license.
Armstrong enrolled in Purdue University to study aeronautical engineering but was called to duty with the U.S. Navy in 1949 and flew 78 combat missions in Korea. After the war, Armstrong finished his degree and later earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He became a test pilot with what evolved into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, flying more than 200 kinds of aircraft from gliders to jets.
Armstrong was accepted into NASA’s second astronaut class in 1962 — the first, including Glenn, was chosen in 1959 — and commanded the Gemini 8 mission in 1966. After the first space docking, he brought the capsule back in an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean when a wildly firing thruster kicked it out of orbit.
Armstrong was backup commander for the historic Apollo 8 mission at Christmastime in 1968. In that flight, Commander Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell and Bill Anders circled the moon 10 times, and paving the way for the lunar landing seven months later.
It’s estimated that 500 to 600 million people around the world huddled around televisions to watch the moon landing; many more listened on radio.
At 9:32 a.m. on July 16, with the world watching, Apollo 11 took off from Kennedy Space Center with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong, a 38-year-old civilian research pilot, was the commander of the mission. After traveling 240,000 miles in 76 hours, Apollo 11 entered into a lunar orbit on July 19. The next day, at 1:46 p.m., the lunar module Eagle, manned by Armstrong and Aldrin, separated from the command module, where Collins remained. Two hours later, the Eagle began its descent to the lunar surface, and at 4:18 p.m. the craft touched down on the southwestern edge of the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong immediately radioed to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, a famous message: “The Eagle has landed.”
…[A] fifth of the world’s population — watched and listened to the moon landing, the largest audience for any single event in history.
Parents huddled with their children in front of the family television, mesmerized. Farmers abandoned their nightly milking duties, and motorists pulled off the highway and checked into motels just to watch on TV.
The moment arrives…
At 10:39 p.m., five hours ahead of the original schedule, Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the lunar module’s ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 p.m., Armstrong spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He then planted his left foot on the gray, powdery surface, took a cautious step forward, and humanity had walked on the moon.
Here’s video of that historical moment when millions across the earth held their collective breath as America did the unimaginable – put man on the moon:
A man who shunned the cameras, Armstrong described himself:
“I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
It’s important to note Astronaut Armstrong was critical of Obama’s space plans. In May 2010, Armstrong testified before before a House panel that exercised jurisdiction over NASA:
“The leadership enthusiastically assured the American people that the agency was embarking on an exciting new age of discovery in the cosmos,” Armstrong said. “But the realities of the termination of the shuttle program, the cancellation of existing rocket launcher and spacecraft programs, the layoffs of thousands of aerospace workers, and the outlook for American space activity throughout the next decade were difficult to reconcile with the agency assertions.”
Armstrong said the Obama administration’s cancellation of the back-to-the-moon Constellation program and reliance on commercial spacecraft to service the orbiting International Space Station are contributing to “substantial erosion of the United States’ historically highly regarded space industrial base” and a reduction in the number of students pursuing advanced engineering degrees.
The retired Navy aviator added: “A lead – however earnestly and expensively won — once lost is nearly impossible to regain.”
In 1999, Armstrong wed Carol Knight. He had two adult sons from a previous marriage.
Armstrong’s family issued a simple, beautiful suggestion for anyone who wanted to remember him:
“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.”
to American hero,
Follow Jayde Wyatt on Twitter @YayforSummer