Neil Armstrong was born in 1930 in Ohio and died in 2012 in Ohio. Between those two dates he became immortal on the Moon.
Think about it, as long as there are human beings his name will be remembered. One day perhaps all the heroes and tyrants and martyrs and thinkers familiar to us today will be lost to history, but the name of Armstrong, first to walk on another world will still be part of humanity’s consciousness.
A born pilot, Armstrong flew fighters in the Korean War then served as a civilian test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and its successor NASA. He successfully applied to be an astronaut in 1962. Quiet and reserved, his manner set him apart from the brash and rowdy types found among the astronauts. His first flight was the Gemini 8 mission in 1966. This flight was almost a disaster thanks to malfunctioning thrusters which imparted a potentially fatal spin to the spacecraft and the Agena docking target, Armstrong’s cool actions to bring his craft under control almost certainly were why he was selected to lead NASA’s first mission to land on the Moon.
Everyone knows the history now. Professional throughout, Armstrong steered across an unexpectedly rocky landing zone and with what seemed to be the last propellants in the tanks landed the LM Eagle on the Sea of Tranquility. Descending the short ladder to the silent grey regolith he spoke the words
“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong and Aldrin spent less than 22 hours on the Moon and less than three of those hours were spent in spacesuits exploring the alien landscape.
A reluctant hero, Armstrong returned to Earth to universal acclaim, collecting honours and medals from across the world. Perhaps surprisingly, he never flew beyond Earth’s atmosphere again, soon retiring from NASA for a career in academia. He was as accomplished and professional a teacher as he was an astronaut. A shy and modest man, he made little of his achievement, avoiding publicity and rarely giving media interviews, facts some lesser persons claimed to find suspicious.
Neil Armstrong was a great man who did a great thing and showed everyone what human beings are capable of . Our world is a lesser place for his passing.
(Article by Colin Johnston, Science Communicator)