Even though President Obama called him the hero of all time, will Neil Armstrong be the greatest astronaut who ever lived for the foreseeable future?
By: Ringo Bones
Given that NASA’s budget has been slashed so much that they can’t afford a manned mission to the Moon anytime soon, it looks like Neil Armstrong will serve as our greatest astronaut for awhile. Sadly, Neil Armstrong passed away back in Saturday, August 25, 2012, aged 82 after complications following heart surgery. And yet he will forever be remembered for uttering the iconic phrase: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind when he became the first man to walk on the Moon’s surface.
It was 10:56 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong – serving as the commander of the Apollo 11 mission - became the first man to set foot on the Moon. At the time, he had the biggest audience ever to see any event. But what the TV watchers from all across the globe didn’t know then was how narrowly disaster had been averted during the landing six hours earlier. The flimsy Lunar Module named Eagle was being directed to touchdown by the craft’s computer / automatic pilot which, unseeing, aimed the craft straight into a rock-filled crater. With only seconds to spare, Armstrong seized control of the craft and piloted Eagle to a safe spot in a dramatic demonstration of the human role in space exploration.
Once suited up and out on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin quickly disproved fears that conditions on the Moon would interfere with their work. “I say the rocks are rather slippery.” Aldrin radioed back to Earth. “About to loose my balance in one direction but recovery is quite natural and very easy.” The low Lunar gravity – one sixth that of Earth - turned out to be an advantage and the astronauts soon delighted television watchers with long, graceful leaps, made possible by their reduced body weight, as they carried out their serious scientific work.
After spending 21 hours on the Moon with their mission accomplished, Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off on the upper half of the LEM to rendezvous with Michael Collins piloting the Earth-return vehicle, leaving behind two instruments, a heap of abandoned gear and a stainless steel plaque inscribed: “We came in peace for all mankind.”
Before becoming an astronaut, Neil Armstrong flew 78 combat missions on an F-86 Saber during the Korean War. Then he went on to become a test pilot for NASA and even managed to fly one of the X-15 rocket planes before being accepted into the Apollo program.
After the success of the Apollo mission, Armstrong more or less lived on quietly as a tenured professor at the Cincinnati University. And back in July 20, 2009 during the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, he and fellow astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were invited by President Obama to the White House.