Sadly on August 25th 2012 it was announced that Neil Armstrong the first man to walk on the moon had passed away following complications during surgery. UKSEDS joins SEDS chapters all over the world in mourning the passing of a great man and one of the true heroes of our time.
Armstrong’s astronaut career started in 1962 when he left NACA as a test pilot to join NASA’s ranks as one of the “New Nine”, the second ever intake of American astronauts. Whilst at NASA Armstrong flew into space twice, once onboard Gemini 8 and again on Apollo 11. His first flight into space was on the Gemini 8 mission where he piloted the capsule on a complex rendezvous and docking manoeuvre. Unfortunately this mission was put in jeopardy when during docking a thruster became stuck in the on position causing the capsule and module to spin out of control. However, Armstrong’s excellent piloting skills and cool head allowed him to successfully disengage the thruster and recover control of the capsule before safely returning to Earth.
For his second and final space mission Armstrong took command of Apollo 11 for mankind’s first shot at landing a man on the lunar surface. Fraught with danger this mission required a skilled pilot who could keep calm under pressure and deliver the best from his vehicle. Armstrong was perfect for this job with his hundreds of flight hours as a NACA test pilot and a cool head, giving him the edge over the competition. On July 21st 1969 watched by the eyes of the world, Neil Armstrong took ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’; forever securing himself a place in the history books and the hearts of a nation. Following this highly successful mission Armstrong spent one more year at NASA before retiring from space for good.
Although Armstrong retired from NASA over 40 years ago, the footage of his first steps on another world and the immortal words he spoke that day still continue to inspire generations to this day. It is safe to say that without Armstrong’s first steps the generations that followed may never have found the inspiration that drove them to build telescopes and probes to seek out new places for mankind to visit, and to build rovers the size of cars to allow us to explore them.
Below you can read some words of remembrance from the Chairs of UKSEDS and SEDS USA:
“Of all the people who have every lived, and probably those who ever will live – all that they have and will probably achieve pales in comparison to the feats that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin achieved. If there was ever a line to be drawn, when humans stopped being simply highly evolved apes and became something more advanced – then Neil Armstrong was the person who drew that line. I have no doubt he will still be inspiring future generations to leave the comfort of their home and explore universe in thousands of years time.” – Damian Rumble (UKSEDS Chair)
“Many Students first learn about Space exploration through the great accomplishments of the past, like Armstrong’s historic and heroic landing on the Moon. This was a journey that he himself said only had a 50-50 chance of success because of the groundwork Armstrong laid down, young people have been inspired throughout the world to pursue the limits of where we can explore. While many see the landing of Apollo as the conclusion of the great challenge set in front of us by President Kennedy, it was only the beginning, the trailblazing efforts lead by Neil Armstrong and others must be continued as we reach farther into cosmos and return to the Moon and beyond.” – Dan Pastuf (SEDS-USA Chair)