Neil Armstrong – the Right Stuff

Sunday marks the ninth anniversary of the death of Neil Armstrong.

As regular readers know, we are big fans of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Folks like John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, were our heroes.

According to his biography on the NASA website, he transferred from his status as a test pilot to being an astronaut in 1962. He was the command pilot on the Gemini 8 mission in 1966 and performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.

He, of course, is most famous as spacecraft commander for Apollo 11 when he became the first man to land a craft on the moon and then first man to step on it.

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong proclaimed to the world.

In later years, he was a professor of aerospace engineering and remained a dedicated advocate for NASA until his death.

Brian Williams of NBC News described Armstrong as the “last of our modest heroes.” He remained a quiet, competent pilot devoted to his country and the space program.

His partner in the Lunar Landing Module, Buzz Aldrin, described how Armstrong calmly overrode the autopilot on it to guide it to a safe landing on the moon. With only seconds’ worth of fuel left, Armstrong set the module down, avoiding what Aldrin described as “car-sized” boulders in a terrain pock-marked with craters.

Armstrong calmly radioed Mission Control, “Tranquility Base here, the Eagle (the lunar module) has landed.”

He, and all those first astronauts, were test pilots chosen to fulfill President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon in the decade of the 1960s. They did it, barely, with Armstrong and Aldrin setting down on July 20, 1969.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, from Armstrong’s home state of Ohio, summed up the view of many who had met the astronaut when he told CNN:

“A true hero has returned to the heavens to which he once flew. Neil Armstrong blazed trails not just for America, but for all of mankind. He inspired generations of boys and girls worldwide not just through his monumental feat, but with the humility and grace with which he carried himself to the end.”

He inspired a lot of us adults, too.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.