Neil Armstrong, First Man On Moon, Dies at 82
NASA Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong died Saturday at 82, not only as the first ever person to step foot on the moon, but also as one of the few that ever have (11 in total, the last one in 1972) — and probably ever will, as more cost-effective robots are now taking the place of breathing humans on space-bound missions. Which is why astronauts and romantics alike mourned this weekend the death of a Homeric hero, who in the war-ridden 1960s brought pride and joy to the nation with his small step. "For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request,'' Armstrong's family said in a statement after the former astronaut suffered complications during heart surgery. "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."
The notoriously reserved Armstrong, who was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and taught aerospace enginneering at the University of Cincinnati until 1979, claimed aviator Charles Lindbergh as his own personal hero, but he may have surpassed him in historical and popular scopes thanks to his historic lunar landing — especially as news emerged that he had literally saved the day and the entire mission when he manually steered the lunar module onto the moon's surface with barely 20 seconds of fuel left. But Armstrong remained a reluctant celebrity, insisting humbly that he had only done his job. "I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer," Armstrong said in a February 2000 appearance, reports USA Today. "And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession."
Many of his colleagues and fellow astronauts took to Twitter to celebrate his memory and mourn his loss. "I know I am joined by millions of others in mourning Neil's passing — a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew," wrote Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who walked with Armstrong on the moon on July 20, 1969. "As young girl watching #NeilArmstrong step on the moon, the stars came a little bit closer & my world & expectations quite a bit larger," Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to fly in space, tweeted. Dedications came from around the world as well, including astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. "RIP #NeilArmstrong, the 1st moonwalker. He inspired me to fly high," Noguchi tweeted.
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