Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday, suffering complications following his recent cardiac bypass surgery.
Armstrong’s family confirmed his death, and released a statement: “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, the family said in the statement.
President Barack Obama said that Armstrong “was among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time. …
“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.”
Neil Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. On July 20, 1936, when he was 6, he experienced his first airplane flight in Warren, Ohio, when he and his father Stephen, an auditor for the Ohio state government, took a ride in a Ford Trimotor, a three-engined transport plane that was also known as the “Tin Goose,” writes The Telegraph.
In high school Armstrong excelled in science and mathematics and won a U.S. Navy scholarship to Purdue University in Indiana, enrolling in 1947. He left after two years to become a Navy pilot, flying combat missions in the Korean War and winning three medals.
Armstrong joined the NASA astronaut corps in 1962. He was assigned as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission. Gemini 8 was launched on March 16, 1966, and Armstrong performed the first successful manned docking of two vehicles in space.
According to Reuters, as commander of the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. As he stepped on the dusty surface, Armstrong said: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong put his piloting skills to good use on the moon landing, overriding the automatic pilot so he and fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin would not have to land their module in a big rocky crater.
After commanding the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong subsequently held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In this position, he was responsible for the coordination and management of overall NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics.
Armstrong was Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati between 1971-1979.
Armstrong, the lunar pioneer, who was decorated by 17 countries and received a slew of US honours, was never comfortable with his worldwide fame, shying away from the limelight.
He once was asked how he felt knowing his footprints would likely stay on the moon’s surface for thousands of years. “I kind of hope that somebody goes up there one of these days and cleans them up,” he said.
John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, recalled Armstrong’s legendary humility.
“He didn’t feel that he should be out huckstering himself,” the former Ohio senator told CNN. “He was a humble person, and that’s the way he remained after his lunar flight, as well as before.”
In May, Neil Armstrong joined Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida to support the opening of The National Flight Academy, which aims to teach maths and science to kids through an aviation-oriented camp.
Armstrong’s post-NASA life was a very private one. He took no major role in ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary of the moon landing. “He’s a recluse’s recluse,” said Dave Garrett, a former NASA spokesman.
Armstrong married Carol Knight in 1999, and the couple lived in Indian Hill, a Cincinnati suburb. He had two adult sons from a previous marriage.