Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Dead at 82 [VIDEO]
Neil Armstrong, a former United States astronaut and the first man to ever step foot on the surface of the moon, has died at the age of 82.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission which landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.
He retired from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shortly after returning from his moon mission and became a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamor of the space program.
“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.”
REACTION TO THE DEATH OF AN ICON
His colleagues on the Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, said Saturday that they will miss a dedicated, smart and careful astronaut and friend.
At the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Ohio, a black ribbon hung over a plaque of Armstrong in the museum’s entryway and a U.S. flag was lowered in Armstrong’s memory.
John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, says Neil Armstrong dedicated himself to his country and will always be remembered for pioneering the way to the moon. In a phone interview Saturday with The Associated Press, Glenn said he will miss Armstrong and noted that he was a close friend. The two astronauts — arguably NASA’s most famous — both hailed from Ohio.
Glenn recalled how Armstrong had just 15 seconds to 35 seconds of fuel remaining when he landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, with Buzz Aldrin. Glenn also recounted Armstrong’s illustrious aviation career, including his testing of experimental aircraft. Glenn says Armstrong’s skill and dedication “was just exemplary.”
The 91-year-old Glenn was in Columbus, Ohio, when he learned of Armstrong’s death at age 82.
“Neil was among the greatest of American heroes — not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation,” said President Obama of Armstrong. “They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable — that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”
SUPPORTER OF NASA
A man who kept away from cameras, Armstrong went public in 2010 with his concerns about President Barack Obama’s space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon and emphasized private companies developing spaceships. He testified before\ Congress and in an email to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he had “substantial reservations,” and along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, he signed a letter calling the plan a “misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations
for the foreseeable future.”
Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, on a farm near Wapakoneta in western Ohio. He took his first airplane ride at age 6 and developed a fascination with aviation that prompted him to build model airplanes and conduct experiments in a homemade wind tunnel.
At the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles on Saturday, visitors held a minute of silence in memory of Armstrong. His family’s statement made a simple request for anyone else who wanted to
remember him: “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.”
Armstrong is survived by his wife, Carol.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.