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America Loses A 'Reluctant Hero' — Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012

Tell us your thoughts on the death of the man who took the historic first steps on the moon.

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

But Neil A. Armstrong, who died Saturday in Cincinnati at age 82 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.

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 featured 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.

His family had 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.”

Where were you during the first moon landing? What was Neil Armstrong's contribution to American history? Tell us in comments.

Danna Walker (Editor) August 26, 2012 at 04:54 PM
It's hard to explain how amazing it was to watch an event in which the whole country was invested and that had such positive implications for humanity. It inspired so much optimism. I can't think of anything else that has done that in my lifetime.
McGibblets August 26, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Nice article on it today via AP discussing how he was misquoted slightly "But Armstrong said immediately after the 1969 landing that he had been misquoted. He said he actually said, "That's one small step for `a' man." It's just that people just didn't hear it." I think it played out all the better for him given the misquote though. Quite a feat! http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_OBIT_NEIL_ARMSTRONG_ABOUT_THAT_QUOTE?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-08-26-04-01-54
Bruce Goldfarb August 26, 2012 at 09:04 PM
The word "hero" is used a lot these days, but the guys who strapped themselves atop a bomb in a tin can and hurtled beyond the bounds of Earth--they truly were heroes. When I grew up, following the astronauts in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs was for me what sports stars are like for people. Watching Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin awkwardly stumble on the moon was awe-inspiring beyond words. McGibblets: Armstrong was not misquoted. Listen for yourself: http://youtu.be/Z9WDsgCIroE. He also claimed that the electronics dropped out the "a," but I don't think do. Armstrong can be forgiven for flubbing his line. He still had the Right Stuff.
Lorna D. Rudnikas August 26, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Neil Armstrong...hero of heroes, no doubt about it.
Lacy (Dobfreak) Thomas August 26, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I had the fortune and pleasure to meet Mr. Armstrong in 1999 at a little star party in Central Ohio - talked with him for 20 minutes in the coffee shack without knowing who he was - he later came down to the scope where I was 'properly' introduced! Shared some deep sky stuff with him and he thanked me before leaving - that felt wierd. One thing he said (in the coffee shack) I will treasure forever; he asked me what got me interested in astronomy and i told him about Daddy spreading a quilt in the front yard (when I was little) and showing me the constellations and telling me the mythology behind them. Keep in mind my Daddy had a 5th grade education - Neil said, "I would have liked to have met him." He was a most humble and personable man.
Arbutus Town Crier August 26, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Along with the flag Armstrong and Aldrin planted on the moon, they left a plaque. It is inscribed with other words that Safire wrote: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” Maybe some day we all can live in peace
Abby Lane August 27, 2012 at 01:21 AM
He was a pioneer who dared to travel beyond the boundaries of this planet. What an amazing life he lived, and so humbly, at that. R.I.P., Mr. Armstrong. You allowed us all to believe that anything is truly possible.
Biller's Bikes August 27, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Took a picture off the fuzzy black-and-white TV of that footstep as a ten-year-old, had that pic forever.
Chuck August 27, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Godspeed, Neil Armstrong ! I sure wish we had something like the "Race to the Moon" that we, as a country could get behind now.
David J Iacono August 27, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Neil Armstrong was a great American hero who motivated a generation into seeking careers in science, math and technology. I'm looking forward to the first man or woman on Mars but it's not likely in my lifetime given the aversion and ignorance of some leaders to science, math and rational thought.
KS Alexander August 27, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I was traveling in Europe during the moon landing, watched on the only available television...in the bar of the hotel in Madrid and then in the hotel in Rome the next day...and tried to hear what Walter Cronkite was saying behind the voice-overs. The hotel guests were all glued to the screen, and the non-Americans were shaking our hands and congratulating us. Unforgettable.
Agnes Davis August 27, 2012 at 03:17 PM
As a fellow buckeye, I have very fond memories visiting the Neil Armstrong museum in Ohio. Recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about our greatest astronaut. God bless you and your family. Agnes
Richard Rice August 27, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I remember Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon when I was younger and find that his life was an inspiration and blessing to this great nation of ours! Rest in Peace Neil and may your Creator's peace be with you for Eternity!!!
Carol B August 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM
It's funny how people's ages in your mind are so different from what they actually are. Mr. Armstrong was only ten years younger than my parents--and when he walked on the moon, I was a little girl. But he was the Luke Skywalker of my generation, and to me, he was much closer to my age. I am saddened by his loss, and will never forget the thrill of his moon walk. I even wrote a poem about it at that time. He was a "hero" in the best sense of the word--not a carousing, drunken, drugged-up jerk, but a true and modest man who in his own eyes was "just doing his job"--making exciting, unforgettable history for the rest of us. I'm so glad he lived to see Curiosity get to Mars--and I hope he gets the best telescope in heaven, from which to watch its progress!

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