August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong Passes: The American Who Will Be Remembered.... For As Long As the Human Race Exists

Neil Armstrong, First Man on Moon, Dies at 82: Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner and an astronaut, Mr. Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamour of the space program. “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said in February 2000 in a rare public appearance. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”

102:45:04 Aldrin: Light's on.
102:45:08 Aldrin: 60 feet, down 2 1/2. (Pause) 2 forward. 2 forward. That's good.
102:45:17 Aldrin: 40 feet, down 2 1/2. Picking up some dust.
102:45:21 Aldrin: 30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Shadow.
102:45:25 Aldrin: 4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. 20 feet, down a half.
102:45:32 Aldrin: Drifting forward just a little bit; that's good.
102:45:40 Aldrin: Contact Light.
102:45:43 Armstrong: Shutdown
102:45:44 Aldrin: Okay. Engine Stop.
102:45:57 Duke: We copy you down, Eagle.
102:45:58 Armstrong: Engine arm is off. Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.


For Apollo


The moon marked out the edge of heaven.

On this, our scriptures all agreed.

The moon was fixed, it could not fall.

The moon would fill our final needs.

The songs we'd learned were of the moon,

A fitting subject, known to all,

But the songs we sang were of the Earth,

And those that lived before the Fall.

These songs of forests flowing round

The Earth's four corners warmed the frost

That killed our gardens, coming early,

To remind us all of what we'd lost.


"Why wander yearning for the moon?"

We'd ask of stones and ancient trees.

Their silence sang back in the night,

Of lands where all free choices freeze.

"Tranquillity", they promised us,

"Is the highest peak you will attain.

Tranquillity, where your bones will rest

Forever in the airless rains."

Our numbers grew, as did our tongues,

Beside brown rivers, on ancient plains.

We made more gods, we built up walls,

We fashioned towers of dirt and rain.


Within those walls we planted fruit

And flowers bordering roofless rooms,

Wherein we sang the centuries down,

Observing all the phases of the moon.


In time our towers turned to steel,

And their foundations into fire.

The rooms we made were sealed as stone,

And in those rooms we rose much higher.


The moon grew monstrous as we ascended;

In our window it grew larger than the world.

We lowered our ladder gingerly,

Stepped down, a bit of cloth unfurled.


We named the place Tranquillity.

A fitting gesture, all agreed.

We photographed ourselves on site,

Tossed away some junk we did not need,


And left, returning to that place

Where we'd begun beside the plains,

Boasting our footprints would endure

Forever in the airless rains.


Sometimes at night, we still look up

And see the moonrise scrape the sky.

It is the same, yet not the same,

And we know why, yes, we know why.


Posted by gerardvanderleun at August 25, 2012 2:28 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Greatness. How supremely fortunate we are to have men like him among us. Peace be with, Mr. Armstrong, and thank you.

Posted by: Kerry at August 25, 2012 2:38 PM


qui primus inter omnes in superficie lunae ambulavit

Anyone interested in my thoughts on the passing of this American hero is welcome to click the link.


Posted by: B Lewis at August 25, 2012 3:02 PM

Neil Armstrong should have the biggest state funeral ever given to a single man. Bigger than any President's. Even bigger than Princess Diana's.

Every member of space agencies from around the world, not just NASA, should go there and pay their respects. I know school hasn't started in much of this country, but every child should witness this funeral, and learn about a man who was humble, even when he became the instrument of the greatest feat ever achieved by humans in all of History. That alone should rise the curiosity and desire on a potential new generation of astronauts, engineers and astronomers.

Once the state funeral is over, his ashes should be placed inside a heavily sealed capsule, sent out and up on a rocket from Cape Kennedy to the Moon, thus making its surface his final resting place. And let there be some kind of a marker that anyone with a telescope can catch, and then tell their kids, "See? Here's where The Man Who First Walked the Moon is buried. And his first footsteps there are not far away from it." A very fitting exchange: he, Collins and Aldrin took a few rock samples from the Moon and brought them back to Earth. Let the Moon have a sample of Earth's organic material inside a capsule with his ashes.

Let the whole world see where he once walked... and where his remains will dwell for eternity. That should be the greatest monument ever for a real American Legend. A fitting memorial for a very humble man.

Posted by: newton at August 25, 2012 3:05 PM

My father took us to the Apollo 11 liftoff. From 9 miles away, as close as civilians could get, it was mighty, and awesome. The ground shook from the Saturn V. The blast of air hit about a minute later. Succeed or fail, that day was the pinnacle of human achievement. Until, of course, 3 days later. I shall miss Neil Armstrong, and everything he represented. Very, very much. We aren't that people any more.

Posted by: Velociman at August 25, 2012 3:25 PM

You have wrung tears from me with this.

We have no national observance in August. Neil Armstrong's passing into greater glory would be a fine day to remember when we were a young nation in its prime. And yes: The finest celebration, most somber lamentation, and a sobriety of time and place as such nobility deserves.

A godling among us returns to his own.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at August 25, 2012 3:28 PM

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

Godspeed Neil Armstrong. You have made us all proud.
I feel this loss so keenly. I was never so proud of what we were or being an American as July 20, 1969.
Yeah, verily, he has now slipped
the surly bonds of Earth.

Posted by: David at August 25, 2012 4:10 PM

How we longed for the Future. I remember when all the students at Claude O Owen Elementary were herded into the big lobby of the school building to watch Alan Shepard. That was the first shot. And well I remember sitting in the living room of my high school girlfriend's house watching the Eagle land live on TV. The Future. We were going to the moon. I never dreamed that in the real Future we'd be talking about the old days when we used to be able to go there.


Posted by: jwm at August 25, 2012 4:59 PM

Statement from Neil's family:

"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.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

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.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. 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."

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at August 25, 2012 5:22 PM

I, too, remember the moon landing. I was only a young child, but that night remains fixed in my memory. It was quite late at night here in Dallas when that "one small step" was taken, about 9:00 p.m., and of course we cousins were thrilled to be allowed to stay up late on a school night. Most of the family in the area had gathered at the home of my mom's older sister and brother in law, which meant a house full of cousins. We kids ran, roughhoused, and played, and then suddenly our parents called us into the living room, and there we witnessed history.

I remember some cheering and handshakes between my aunts and uncles. They were the sons and daughters of a Mississippi sharecropper, a clan of hard-loving and hard-living people, and they had grown up picking cotton in the Depression, segueing immediately thereafter into World War II and Korea. How it must have seemed to them, to see a man walking on the moon.

Their mom, my grandma, was there, too, of course. She watched along with the rest of us but didn't believe it was real. She never did believe it.

We kids believed it. As Cronkite cackled with glee and my uncles and aunts hugged and backslapped one another, we all ran out into the back yard. The moon was visible in Dallas that night, round and yellow in the humid air of that Texas summer night. We all peered at the moon with narrowed eyes, searching for some flash of light, some sign that a pair of men were walking on that very moon even as we looked.

We all were convinced we saw something, of course.

Posted by: B Lewis at August 25, 2012 5:53 PM

It was wondrous and amazing to be a child and watch this with my family. It was one of the most memorable, happiest moments in our history, and there was no shame in saying how proud we were of it, either.

Posted by: Jewel at August 25, 2012 11:06 PM

People today cannot imagine how it felt to look up at the moon and realize that there were people walking around upon it.

Posted by: Robert Oculus III at August 26, 2012 12:31 AM

An excellent and touching tribute Gerard; the best I've read so far, thank you for your thoughts and the illustrations. As, in England, I live on a vastly less amenable planet than the one to which I was born. I'm hoping that your compatriots will take this into account when they go the polls in November and remove one of the main causes of this deterioration - and the main obstacle to further wonderful achievement pioneered by Armstrong, his crew and the team that made it all possible. Your current 'Leader' seems hell bent on regressing us all back into the dark ages of totalitarian ideology (with the help of the Muslim Mullahs, who quite obviously wish to take us even further back into barbarity).

As for our own 'Leaders' ... words fail me. But I do wish someone would bundle the whole bunch into a crate and launch them into space bound for the outer reaches of the universe, as an example to anyone else 'out there' of what can go wrong with living organisms if constant vigilance is not maintained.

Posted by: Frank P at August 26, 2012 3:10 AM

RIP Neil ..., the world lost. You're the legend and it remains legendary ..

Posted by: andriani at August 26, 2012 9:08 AM

I was on a jet that night, heading for Brasil when the captain made the announcement that Armstrong had landed. A Brasilian Army officer next to me grabbed my hand and congratulated me and hugged me because I was American.
I was young, optimistic and all full of piss and vinegar. Not so much lately.

Posted by: Shooter1001 at August 26, 2012 9:14 AM

Neil Armstrong, America's Columbus in ways we can't yet know nor understand.
In 500 years he will be remembered just as well!

Posted by: Shooyter1001 at August 26, 2012 9:20 AM


I would have posted that poem if you had not. It was taught to me by my grand uncle who was a WWII fighter pilot over England.

I was born just before the moon landings. I fear that I will die before mankind goes back.

Posted by: pdwalker at August 26, 2012 9:22 AM

Thanks to Newton, David, Lewis, Jewel, Joan of Argghh, and others who shared their personal accounts. I was interested in space as a kid but born after the moon landings. I remembered at that age wondering what is must have been like for a kid my age to have witnessed that moment when humans were no longer confined to earth. We now have the space station but I'm sure it is not the same. Especially considering that for you the space program moved so fast from first flight to moon landing that it all happened in your childhood. Perhaps some of you even had a grandparent who recalled their memory of the first airplane flight since that was only 65 years before. Exciting times. Thanks again and RIP Neil.

Posted by: Steve K. at August 26, 2012 9:38 AM

Oops. I misread and listed the incorrect names in my previous post. But you know who you are.

Posted by: Steve K. at August 26, 2012 9:48 AM

Greatest American since George Washington and one of the greatest men to have ever lived. He will live forever.

Posted by: Mart at August 26, 2012 11:14 AM