The legendary, Neil Armstrong
One event that I consider a highlight in my life is being part of a generation that saw the historic walking of man on the moon with the monumental words, saying, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
This, after Neil Armstrong, as commander of the Apollo 11 mission, together with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin, notified mission control of the module’s successful landing on the moon. “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed,” he said.
I will never forget that momentous day, on July 20, 1969 (43 years ago), because I was in Vietnam doing my tour of duty, and that night, when everybody else was eagerly watching the event on a grainy black and white TV broadcast and cheering, I was the roving guard of our Seabees encampment – the US Naval Mobile Construction Battallion 11 (USNMCB-11), then assigned in Quang Tri.
Making my rounds that night, amidst jubilant shouts of success, I was feeling goose pimples all over. It was simply exhilarating, as it was awe-inspiring.
Like everybody else also in my generation, Armstrong became my instant hero.
But, as everybody knows he was a reluctant global hero.
Although he was an accomplished Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for Nasa’s forerunner X-15 rocket plane and an astronaut that made the first space docking during the Gemini 8 mission, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamor status of those idolized.
“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.”
The intrepid, moon trail blazing trio: astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin
While Armstrong and Aldrin’s spent nearly three hours walking on the moon, collecting samples, conducting experiments, and taking photographs, another astronaut, Michael Collins, was circling the moon awaiting the duo’s return.
It is said that even the American flag that they planted on the moon is still standing to this day.
The moonwalk marked America’s victory in the Cold War space race that began October 4 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, a satellite that sent shock waves around the world.
In all, 12 American astronauts walked on the moon between 1969 and the last moon mission in 1972.
It is therefore saddening to hear that Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon and one considered a space hero by many, has been announced by the family to have died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures done on him.
Armstrong was 82 years old.
He is gone, but his trail blazing exploits and intrepidity will never be forgotten.