( 4UMF NEWS ) Neil Armstrong Dies:
First moonwalker Neil Armstrong’s death at the age of 82 marks the passing of a “reluctant American hero,” as well as the dimming of the Space Age‘s brightest moment.
His death followed complications from heart-bypass surgery he underwent this month, Armstrong’s family said today in a statement released by NASA. The first public report of Armstrong’s death came via NBC News’ Cape Canaveral correspondent, Jay Barbree, a longtime friend.
Armstrong has been immortalized in human history as the first human to set foot on a celestial body beyond Earth. “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” he radioed back to Earth from the moon on July 20, 1969.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that “as long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them.”
Armstrong’s fellow moonwalker on the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin, was among the legions mourning his passage. “We are missing a great spokesman and leader in the space program,” Aldrin said in a BBC interview. He said he’d remember Armstrong “as being a very capable commander and leader of an achievement that will be recognized until man sets foot on the planet Mars.”
Michael Collins, the crewmate who circled the moon in the Apollo 11 command module while Armstrong and Aldrin took that first trip to the lunar surface, also paid tribute to his commander in a NASA statement: “He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.”
President Barack Obama said that Armstrong and his crew “carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation,” and that the first steps on the moon “delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”
NBC’s Jay Barbree, who has covered every manned space mission in U.S. history, was first to break the news that Neil Armstrong had died. He discusses the astronaut’s life with NBC’s Lester Holt.
“Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown — including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space,” Obama said in a White House statement. “That legacy will endure — sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step.”
The “one small step” served as the climax of a superpower space race with the Soviet Union, and arguably established the United States’ primacy in outer space for decades to come. But Apollo 11 also set a precedent for peaceful cooperation in space. “We came in peace for all mankind,” the plaque left behind on the moon read. At one point during Armstrong’s first moonwalk, he stopped for what he called a “tender moment” and set down a patch to commemorate NASA astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who died in the course of their duties.