Neil Armstrong: War Veteran, Test Pilot, Educator, Explorer – Now a part of history

by Steve Wiggins
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Neil Armstrong
Photo:Molly Riley/Reuters

Millions of us were saddened when word of the death of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on another world, flashed around the Third Rock From the Sun Saturday. Armstrong died from complications of recent cardiac surgery. He was 82.

Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served his country in the Korean War. after Korea, he became a test pilot. among the high performance craft Armstrong flew, was the famous, near-hypersonic, Bell X-15, which he piloted to the edge of space. His first spaceflight was NASA’s Gemini 8 in 1966, in which he and co-pilot David Scott performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft.

His next, and final mission to space was the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969. On this mission, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent 2½ hours exploring, while Michael Collinsremained in orbit in the Command Module. Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by PresidentRichard Nixon along with Collins and Aldrin, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden

NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden, a former astronaut himself, issued this statement:

“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Carol and the rest of the Armstrong family on the passing of Neil Armstrong. As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind’s first small step on a world beyond our own.
“Besides being one of America’s greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all. When President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a human to the moon, Neil Armstrong accepted without reservation.
“As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut and true American hero.”

On Saturday, Armstrong’s family issued this statement through NASA:

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. 
Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. 
Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.  
He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.  
As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.  
While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.  
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. 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.”

Neil Armstrong and Rep. Brooks before a hearing of the House Committee on
Science, Space, and Technology on the future of human spaceflight, September 22, 2011.

Congressman Mo Brooks of the 5th Congressional District had this to say about Armstrong’s passing:

“I am deeply saddened by Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s passing. Armstrong will always hold a special place in history and in the hearts of the many North Alabamians whose work at NASA created the Saturn V rocket that carried the Apollo 11 crew into space. Today we remember Armstrong’s humble spirit, dedicated service to our country, and quest to push the boundaries of human knowledge.

 “I will always treasure the opportunity I had to meet Neil Armstrong when he testified before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and I will always remember Armstrong’s concern that America’s exceptional manned spaceflight capabilities are in jeopardy.

 “Neil Armstrong was an American hero, and we can best honor his memory by continuing the mission of human exploration in space.”

Neil Armstrong and Family in 1969


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