Neil Armstrong, a 'Reluctant Hero,' Dies at 82

Tell us where you were when Armstrong set foot on the moon, and vote in our poll on the legacy of his historic steps.

His family called him "a reluctant American hero" who was just doing his job.

But Neil A. Armstrong, who died Saturday of complications from heart bypass surgery, was a hero.

He was just shy of his 39th birthday when he lumbered down the ladder from the Apollo 11 spacecraft and stepped onto the stark lunar landscape on July 20, 1969.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he said, as Americans around the country watched in awe at the live footage from dark space, so far away.

That step fulfilled a challenge President John F. Kennedy issued in the early 1960s—to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. 

Local residents can explore that historic moment at the National Air and Space Museum in D.C. and at the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles.

Armstrong began his career as a Navy fighter pilot and test pilot before being tapped for a highly selective position as a NASA astronaut in 1962.

NASA's website this morning features a photo of Armstrong in his flight suit, with a simple "Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012."

“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits," his family said in a statement released by NASA.

And his family has one request for the American people: "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.”

Share your recollections of the first moon landing in our comments section.

Tg Mangno Zomi August 26, 2012 at 10:31 PM
shaun lindheimer August 26, 2012 at 11:32 PM
He has done what others has failed at . only to see the world as it rearly is . and as his comanaders would say A JOB WELL DONE..
Justin Thyme August 27, 2012 at 04:00 AM
That was a wonderful era.
Jason Spencer August 27, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Yes to the poll question, and I'll put it out there: Our milestones with the Mars program will be what spearheads the next generation of young people to get into space and related fields, and will inspire not only the country, but the world. There's been several lofty goals set or at least talked about. All I'm saying it that progress will be made on that front — and on a permanent presence on the moon. And with those accomplishments, this man will be looked back upon with even more respect.
Nancy Cady\ August 28, 2012 at 01:51 AM
The space program has been a major interest in my life. I started reading newspapers daily, when in the 6th grade, the day after Sputnik (Oct. 4, 1957) and continue to this day. Reading newspapers was critical in developing my intellectual curiosity. The Apollo program was fascinating and I followed all the flights. I was in the Peace Corps in a Panamanian village when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon while Michael Collins piloted the main space craft. I MISSED the radio coverage of the big moment thanks to a local celebration - BUT I heard all the repeat coverage. I hope the Mars program is expanded and that it captures our imagination as the Apollo program did.


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