Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, passed away today a few weeks following heart surgery. He was 82.
Armstrong was the Commander of the Apollo 11 mission and on July 20, 1969, after setting foot on the moon, said, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."
It would be his last mission in space.
Unlike Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, the second man on the Moon, Armstrong shied away from the spotlight. A rare exception to this was when he did a spot for Chrysler in 1979 in an effort to help them out of their financial struggles.
In April 2010, Armstrong (along with Apollo 13 Commander James Lovell and Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan) co-wrote a letter criticizing the Obama Administration for abandoning manned space exploration. A month later, Armstrong and Cernan went to Capitol Hill to testify in front of the Senate Commerce Committee to elaborate their views. During his testimony, Armstrong said, "All because a few planner with little or no space operations experience attempted an end run around the normal planning process and it has been painful to watch."
Neil Armstrong and the moon landing became such an integral part of our culture that it has made for a lifetime's worth of amusing anecdotes. I'll give you two.
The first one involves baseball. Like many pitchers, Gaylord Perry was not known for his hitting prowess. He was a career .131 hitter. Legend has it that San Francisco Giants manager Alvin Dark said back in 1964, "They'll put a man on the moon before he hits a homerun." Well, after Apollo 11 landed, Perry hit his first career homerun off Claude Osteen of the Dodgers in a 7-3 Giants win at Candlestick Park.
In 1989, Bob Costas interviewed actress Marilu Henner on NBC's Later. Henner is, of course, renowned for her memory. Costas asked her what she was doing on July 20, 1969. Henner was overcome with embarassment and thought someone put Costas up to asking her about that date. As it turned out, the night of the moon landing was the night Henner lost her virginity. To which, Costas quipped, "Well, one thing for sure. We know Neil Armstrong wasn't the culprit."
I leave you with a rare interview Armstrong did with the late Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes back in 2005.
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