- Written by Malika Andress
Yesterday I received a call from a colleague in America with the sad news that Neil Armstrong had passed away following complications from heart surgery.
Neil was known to all as the first man to walk on the Moon and his achievements have inspired generations of young people to strive to be the best that you can, but what did we really know about this quiet man who did make that one giant leap for mankind?
Neil Alden Armstrong was an astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor and United States Naval Aviator.
Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was a United States Navy officer and had served in the Korean War. After the war, he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station, where he logged over 900 flights.
A participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man In Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs, Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. His first spaceflight was the NASA Gemini 8 mission in 1966, for which he was the command pilot, becoming one of the first U.S. civilians in space. On this mission, he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft with pilot David Scott.
Armstrong's second and last spaceflight was as mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969. On this mission, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent over 2 hours exploring, while Michael Collins remained in orbit in the Command Module. Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon along with Collins and Aldrin, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
"Neil was among the greatest of American heroes - not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation. They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable - that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.
Today, Neil's spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown - including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure - sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step." President Barack Obama
"very saddened to learn of the passing. I know I am joined by millions of others in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew.” Buzz Aldrin
"He was the best, and I will miss him terribly." Michael Collins
“Armstrong will be remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own." NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
"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.” The Armstrong Family
Today we will hold a minutes silence for members of the public to remember the man and that small step that he took. #WinkAtTheMoon