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In Memoriam – Neil Armstrong, 1930 – 2012

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on Earth’s moon, has died.  Armstrong, who had turned 82 on August 5, passed away following complications from a cardiovascular procedure he had done earlier this month.

Born Neil Alden Armstrong in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong developed a passion for aviation as a child.  Upon graduating from high school, Armstrong earned a scholarship from the U.S. Navy.  He enrolled at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he studied aeronautical engineering.  In 1949, he accepted a commission into the Navy.  He served as a Naval pilot during the Korean War; receiving the Air Medal and two Gold Stars for his service.  After his sting in the Navy, Armstrong resumed his studies as Purdue and earned a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering.

In 1955, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA); later renamed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  He was eventually selected to join a small group of astronauts to train for a voyage to the moon.

Armstrong was a test pilot on the X-15 rocket plane and commander of Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 missions.  He and fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins piloted Apollo 11 to the moon; arriving on July 20, 1969 after a four-day flight.  Armstrong uttered two of the most famous statements made by well-known figures: “Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed,” when Apollo 11 landed, and “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” when he set foot on the moon’s surface about six and a half hours later.

After his historic mission to the moon, Armstrong worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), coordinating and managing the administration’s research and technology work.  In 1971, he resigned from NASA and taught engineering at the University of Cincinnati for nearly a decade.

Unlike many these days, Armstrong never tried to cash in on his fame.  When he learned that his autographs were being sold at auctions, he stopped singing things for people.  He was humble and relatively shy.

“Looking back,” Armstrong once said, “we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go.”

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