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He's Gone

Photo credit: Buzz Aldrin/Apollo 11/NASA
The first human being to walk on another celestial body passed away today. Neil Armstrong, 82, commander Apollo 11 and the first man to set foot on the Moon on 21 July 1969[1], died from "complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures."
Photo credit: NASA
Neil Armstrong, along with all the other astronauts in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, was a hero to me. While other kids my age were following baseball, football, and basketball personalities, I was following every astronaut, every space flight, manned and unmanned. I was even following the X-15 flights (as much as was publicaly available at the time). I thought the X-15 was the coolest thing with wings that flew, the start of a real spaceship, the kind of craft that didn't come hurtling back like an uncontrolled ballistic cannonball. Neil Armstrong was an X-15 pilot and the only X-15 pilot to transition to the astronaut program. He would later fly on Gemini 8, where docking with another spacecraft (an unmanned Agena upper stage) was practiced for the first time. Then he would fly as commander on Apollo 11, and into history along with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
Lecture at the Air and Space Museum, Sunday 19 July 2009. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
In an age devoted to the Cult of Celebrity, where people can be famous for doing absolutely nothing, Neil Armstrong was the absolute antithesis. He sought no recognition for all he'd done and helped to do. In the end we rewarded all his hard work and sacrifices, along with all the others in the original astronaut corps, by letting their accomplishments fade away. Although Armstrong was to later write that he felt the civilian rocket companies such as SpaceX could not carry forward with space flight the way that NASA did when he was an astronaut, the truth is that these young Turks are the best hope we have of going back into space and building on what he and everyone else started in the 1960s.

He isn't the first of the astronauts to pass, and he certainly won't be the last, but his passing is a critical event to me. I will miss him greatly.

[1] That's the date, 15 years later, that my wife and I married. I didn't plan it that way, but circumstances "conspired" to put our wedding on that date. I learned that weddings aren't planned so much as they're set into motion and then guided to a conclusion.


Buzz Aldrin’s Official Statement on the Passing of Neil Armstrong -

Neil Armstrong, first man to step on the moon, dies at 82 -

Farewell Neil Armstrong, the Ultimate Test Pilot -

Quotes reacting to the death of Neil Armstrong -

Neil Armstrong, a hero who shunned fame -

In Just 'One Small Step' Armstrong Became An Icon -

Neil A. Armstrong...Photographer -

Farewell, Mr. Armstrong -


  1. Your words are mine. Neil Armstrong was my hero as a young boy and he fueled my youthful dreams that man is capable of wondrous things. He dies even more of a hero in my heart today. May you Rest in Peace Mr. Armstrong.


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