Godspeed, Neil Armstrong

August 25, 2012 by Mike Collins

We lost an aviation icon, and perhaps the country’s greatest space hero, with the passing of Neil Armstrong on August 25. Armstrong, 82, was the first man to walk on the moon; his statement, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” both summarized his accomplishment and underscored his modest personality.

Although Armstrong generally shunned the spotlight of publicity, he continued to fly, moving from a Beech Bonanza to the Cessna 310 that he recently sold. He told AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Tom Haines in May that he was planning his next aircraft purchase. 

The New York Times reported that Armstrong died afterof complications from cardiovascular procedures, attributing the information to a statement from his family.

The statement is worth reading, and if it wasn’t written by Armstrong, it certainly was inspired by him:

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

“Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

“Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

“As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. 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.”

Do you see similarities with the following quotes attributed to Armstrong, which I nominate as his best:

“This is one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

“I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”

“Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying.”

R.I.P., Mr. Armstrong. An Eagle has landed.

5 Responses to “Godspeed, Neil Armstrong”

  1. William Jorns Says:

    I was deeply saddened to learn today of the death of Neil Armstrong.
    He, and the other Apollo astronauts, were my boyhood heroes. On Sunday, July 20, 1969, I followed the progress of the Apollo 11 mission as Neil and Buzz descended to the moon’s surface in their lunar module Eagle. I watched that night as they took those first steps on another world. That moonwalk, and the others that followed on subsequent missions, seemed to me like the greatest adventure a person could ever have. Those space flights sparked my imagination and filled me with wonder like nothing else I’ve ever encountered.
    Each year on July 20, not only do I go to the Crown Space Center at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry to commemorate that historic mission, but I also dig out my DVD of that first moonwalk and play it start to finish.
    I know he was getting up in years, but I was hoping to get to meet Mr. Armstrong before he passed away, to thank him for inspiring me with his courage and daring in undertaking such a perilous mission. Now, sadly, I’ve lost that opportunity.

    Rest in peace, Prof. Armstrong – and thank you.
    1930 – 2012

  2. Harper Poling Says:

    Neil was a pilot in our USNR Squadron VF 724 at Glenview from 1952-55 and Said in a recent letter that he remembered “VF-724 with great affection as they were the kind of people he would want to be with in a shooting war” He remembered the skipper, LCDr Kozlowski, and fellow pilots Neidhold, Graf, Sommer, Soberski, and Tallman.
    What a great guy and pilot.

  3. Frank Szachta Says:

    Dear Armstrong family: As a USAF pilot for 20 years during the “Cold War” (1951-1971) I flew the B-47 Nuclear Bomber and other aircraft after that in support of the free worlds nuclear detonation surveillance unit for five years. I am 2 years Mr. Armstrongs senior and like him, I did a solo flight at 16 and am still a current flight instructor for our small flying club. The Air Force allowed me to get a college degree in electrical engineering, and I helped design and install an Air Defense system in Saudi Arabia called Peace Shield. Our buildings helped the Coallition President Bush (elder) sent into Iraq in 1990 Desert Storm war. My wife Nedra of 60 years was in Riyadh with me, when Saddam invaded Kuwait, and was evacuated quickly for her safety.

    I, like professor Armstrong love flying, and will miss and honor him, with a wink at the full moon tonight as you all requested. I rewatched his centennial talk at Air Venture yesterday, with neighbors here at our Florida home, in honor and rememberance of his love for everything aviation.

    We pray for peace for his soul
    Sincerely Frank & Nedra Szachta Major USAF (ret)

  4. Danny Thompson Says:

    I watched Apollo 11 liftoff while standing in my family’s backyard in Cocoa Beach, went to Cocoa Beach Elementary!……and all of the other Apollo’s, Mercury, Gemini missions, and tons of satellite birds……I’m surprised the old house still stands!……Dad was a Grumman engineer on the LEM during that series, Mom was an exec secretary for the Astronauts……we heard all kinds of neat things that happened at the Cape….I still have the photo of all of the LEM crew in the VAB posing all over the spacecraft, and the ‘gold threaded’ Apollo 11 mission patch and large mission certificate he was given. Neil Armstrong is indeed a hero…..as well as ALL of the other crewmembers, mission support and entire community that built, maintained and launched all of those spacecraft with such dedication and daily heroic effort! Godspeed Neil Armstrong……I bet you’re at the bottom of the ladder right now !!!

  5. Doug Praska Says:

    Not surprisingly William Jorns comments describe almost exactly the way I felt as a boy growing up in North Dakota watching America reach for the moon from the beginning of the Mercury Program to the end of the Apollo Program. I too stayed up all night watching Neil and Buzz approach, land, walk, and explore the Moon’s surface while Michael orbited overhead. I too was filled with great pride with these three national heros, and the heros that followed in their footsteps on Apollos 12 through 17. I too had wanted to meet and shake Neil’s hand. Back in 1994 during the 25th Lunar Landing Anniversary, as a USAF officer assigned at W-PAFB OH, my toddler son and I ventured to Neil’s home town of Waphakeneta OH hoping to meet him and shake his hand. We toured his boyhood home and the Space Museum built and named in his honor. Unfortunately our paths did not cross as Neil, Buzz, and Michael we had learned that afternoon were at a 25th Anniversary Moon Landing Dinner and Reception at KSC if my memory serves me correctly. Neil and all of the astronauts inspired me to graduate with a BSEE degree from UND, and while serving in the USAF as an engineer I earned my commercial IFR multi-engine pilot and instructor flight certificates. In the early days of the Space Shuttle Program the USAF assigned me to work on the Space Shuttle Program at Vandenberg AFB and get launch and landing team on-the-job training at KSC. It was Neil and the rest of the astronauts that gave me those boyhood dreams, and to apply twice for astronaut selection and training. It was the good Lord that gave me the inspiration and opportunity to experience those fond memories and experiences working with the wonderful NASA manned space flight teams. Thank you Neil, you will be missed and I hope that someday we can shake hands in Heaven.

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