Neil Armstrong was a quiet, self-described “nerdy” engineer who became a global hero when as a steely nerved U.S. pilot he made “one giant leap for mankind” with the first step on the moon. The modest man who entranced and awed people on Earth has died. He was 82.
Armstrong died Saturday following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, a statement from his family said. It didn’t say where he died.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969, capping the most daring of the 20th century’s scientific expeditions. His first words after setting foot on the surface are etched in history books and in the memories of those who heard them in a live broadcast.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said.
In those first few moments on the moon, during the climax of a heated space race with the then-Soviet Union, Armstrong stopped in what he called “a tender moment” and left a patch to commemorate NASA astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who had died in action.
“It was special and memorable, but it was only instantaneous because there was work to do,” Armstrong told an Australian television interviewer this year. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs. ”The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to,” Armstrong once said.
The moonwalk marked America’s victory in the Cold War space race that began Oct. 4, 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, a satellite that sent shock waves around the world.
An estimated 600 million people—a fifth of the world’s population—watched and listened to the moon landing, the largest audience for any single event in history.
Parents huddled with their children in front of the family television, mesmerized. Farmers abandoned their nightly milking duties, and motorists pulled off the highway and checked into motels just to watch on TV.
Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamour of the space program. Via Neil Armstrong, 1st man on the moon, dies at 82