Neil Armstrong Dead At 82

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Neil Armstrong, the civilian astronaut who became the first human to set foot on another celestial body, died Saturday from complications from a heart bypass operation he underwent two weeks ago. He was 82. Armstrong lived with his wife Carol in Cincinnati. There was no immediate word on the plan for remembering the self-described "nerdy engineer" who did his utmost to avoid the hero worship the world nevertheless bestowed upon him. It's safe to say Armstrong carried the dreams of the world and the prestige of his country with him (and Buzz Aldrin, of course) when he saw where the Eagle's guidance system had picked for a landing site, snapped off the automatic system and manually guided the Lunar Excursion Module over a crater full of boulders to the relative safety of the Sea of Tranquility. That's when he uttered the second most famous line of the mission: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." It had 30 seconds of fuel left.

Armstrong was notoriously reclusive and snappish with the fans who continued to approach him even 40 years after the mission. He stopped signing autographs in the 1980s when they started showing up in for-profit memorabilia shows and auctions. He rarely made public appearances and among his most recent was at the National Business Aviation Association convention in 2010 where he allowed the organization to feature him in advertisements supporting business aviation. He was also a vocal critic of the federal government's decision to use Russian spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station and he disagreed vehemently with his former employer NASA that moon flights were not a priority. As for his most famous quote, and arguably the most famous quote of all time, Armstrong believed he had been misquoted. He and NASA at first vigorously maintained that he had said "a" man but after repeated playbacks he agreed that while he intended to say it, he may have dropped the article. He said his preferred presentation of the quote was: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."