America Loses A 'Reluctant Hero' — Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012

What do you recall about the day that man first walked on the moon?

His family called him "a reluctant American hero" who was just doing his job.

But Neil A. Armstrong, who died Saturday of complications from heart bypass surgery, was a hero.

He was just shy of his 39th birthday when he lumbered down the ladder from the Apollo 11 spacecraft and stepped onto the stark lunar landscape on July 20, 1969.

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," he said, as Americans around the country watched in awe at the live footage from dark space, so far away.

That step fulfilled a challenge President John F. Kennedy issued in the early 1960s —to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Armstrong began his career as a Navy fighter pilot and test pilot before being tapped for a highly selective position as a NASA astronaut in 1962.

NASA's website this morning features a photo of Armstrong in his flight suit, with a simple "Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012."

“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits," his family said in a statement released by NASA.

And his family has one request for the American people.

"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.”

Share your recollections of the first moon landing in our comments section.

Tim Darnell August 26, 2012 at 05:17 PM
I was eight years old, in my grandparents living room, watching a grainy, black and white image being broadcast from the moon, when Armstrong and Aldrin completed their historic mission. Best book on space: Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff." Best movie: "Apollo 13." Best miniseries: Tom Hanks' "From the Earth to the Moon."
don Gabacho August 26, 2012 at 05:42 PM
That blast-off rates right up there at the top on the "Where were you on that day list"? A day that is the first of days to come grabbing everyone's attention. A friend and I listened to the blast-off on a car radio under a night sky on St. Simon's Island, where the Moon was shining like a giant night light and the Milky Way like, a giant neon bulb. Kennedy coming on the tube annoucing missiles in Cuba & order to blockade Cuba. The news of Kennedy being shot. 9/11 The first explosion of an American bomb dropped on Bagdad.
Don Converse August 27, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I remember watching all the proceedings leading up to the step off the ladder all during that day at home, and then watching the "small step for man" at the Syracuse airport as I awaited a plane to Montreal. Of course the emotion of that moment was overwhelming, but what sprang immediately to my mind was JFK committing to the notion that "we'll land a man on the moon by the end of the decade". I don't know that the U.S. has had any stronger a commitment to accomplishing a goal than this since WWII. No better man could have been selected than Armstrong to put the exclamation point on that whole journey from JFK's pronouncement almost 10 years earlier. Within a cast of astronauts with monumental egos, he was the least likely to make the accomplishment about himself.
don Gabacho August 27, 2012 at 02:40 PM
"A friend and I listened to the blast-off on a car radio under..."---Me Should have read "listened to Armstrong's first big step."
don Gabacho August 27, 2012 at 02:43 PM
"Of course the emotion of that moment was overwhelming..."---Don Converse You got that right. Especially for the generation that was brought up to duck-and-cover.


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