At 10:56pm EDT on July 20, 1969, American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human being to ever step foot on any extraterrestrial body. His initial words of “that’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” were heard around the world and have echoed through time ever since. Earlier today—43 years after his historic mission, a few weeks after he turned 82 years old and underwent heart surgery to relieve blocked arteries—Neil Armstrong passed away.
After his historic mission, Armstrong continued on at NASA as a manager in Washington, DC. Once he left the agency, he taught engineering at the University of Cincinnati and served on numerous corporate boards. He was part of the NASA panel that investigated both the Apollo 13 disaster and the Challenger disaster many years later. Having served his mission and done his job admirably, he asked that he be left to live out his private life in peace. In his biography, it is noted that he did not want to become an icon, remembered only for that one historic week in the summer of 1969. He made few public appearances, mostly related to major anniversaries of his historic mission. On each occasion he took his opportunity to speak to the public to encourage them to continue exploring. At the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission he stated, “There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth’s protective layers. There are places to go beyond belief.”
While it is not what he desired, I knew him as the man who first walked on the moon, a man whose actions inspired me to become an engineer. Hopefully this part of his legacy will live on in the countless people his work inspired to go into science and engineering. He is survived by his wife Carol and his two sons.
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