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Monday, August 27, 2012

US astronaut Neil Armstrong dead at 82


Washington: The first human to set foot on the moon, renowned US astronaut Neil Armstrong, has died following complications from cardiovascular surgery. He was 82.

Armstrong underwent cardiac bypass surgery earlier this month after doctors  found blockages in his coronary arteries.
Praising Armstrong as a “reluctant American hero,” his family said it was  heartbroken and noted that the space pioneer had “served his nation proudly, as  a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut.”   
“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,”  it added.
Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed on the  moon’s desolate surface on July 20, 1969, before the eyes of hundreds of  millions of awed television viewers worldwide.
His first words upon stepping on the lunar surface have since been etched  in history: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”    The 500 million people who watched the grainy black and white broadcast  breathed a sigh of relief when Armstrong told mission control the module had  landed safely, saying: “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” 
But the lunar pioneer, who was decorated by 17 countries and received a  slew of US honors, was never comfortable with his worldwide fame, shying away  from the limelight.
Armstrong even stopped signing memorabilia after learning his autographs  were being sold at exorbitant prices. John Glenn, the first American to to orbit Earth and the third in space,  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.”    A “deeply saddened” President Barack Obama on Saturday hailed Armstrong as “the greatest of American heroes — not just of his time, but of all time.”    His “legacy will endure — sparked by a man who taught us the enormous  power of one small step,” said Obama, who was just under eight years old at the  time of the historic Apollo 11 mission.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner remembered Armstrong for inspiring  generations with his “monumental feat.”    “A true hero has returned to the heavens to which he once flew,” Boehner  said. “Ohio has lost one of her proudest sons. Humanity has gained a legend.”   
Aldrin said he had hoped that he, Armstrong and Michael Collins would have  met up in 2019 for celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. But  the occasion will not come to pass.
“Whenever I look at the moon, it reminds me of the moment over four decades  ago when I realized that even though we were farther away from Earth than two  humans had ever been, we were not alone,” Aldrin said  Collins, in a statement released by a NASA spokesman, said of Armstrong:
“He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.”  Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio on August 5, 1930, Armstrong had an early  fascination with aircraft and worked at a nearby airport when he was a teenager.
He took flying lessons at the age of 15 and received his pilot’s license on  his 16th birthday.

A US Navy aviator, he flew 78 missions in the Korean War. Armstrong joined NASA’s predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee  for Aeronautics, in 1955.
As a research pilot at NASA’s Flight Research Center in Edwards,  California, he flew on many pioneering high-speed aircraft, eventually flying  over 200 different models, including helicopters, gliders, jets and rockets.
He reached astronaut status in 1962, and was assigned as command pilot for  the Gemini 8 mission, during which he performed the first successful docking of  two vehicles in space.
After retiring from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught aerospace engineering at  the University of Cincinnati for nearly a decade and served on the boards of  several companies, including Lear Jet, United Airlines and Marathon Oil.
Armstrong also served as deputy associate administrator for aeronautics at  NASA headquarters, coordinating and managing the space agency’s aeronautics  research and technology work.
His family said they had a simple request to people in memory of  Armstrong’s life.
“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,” it said. -- AFP

Source: New Straits Times

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