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America Loses A 'Reluctant Hero' — Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012

Vote in our Patch Poll on the legacy of his historic first steps on the moon.

His family called him "a reluctant American hero,' who was just doing his job. 

But Neil A. Armstrong, who died Saturday of complications from heart bypass surgery, was a hero.

He was just shy of his 39th birthday when he lumbered down the ladder from the Apollo 11 spacecraft and stepped onto the stark lunar landscape on July 20, 1969.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he said, as Americans around the country watched in awe at the live footage from dark space, so far away.

That step fulfilled a challenge President John F. Kennedy issued in the early 1960s —to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Armstrong began his career as a Navy fighter pilot and test pilot before being tapped for a highly selective position as a NASA astronaut in 1962.

NASA's website this morning features a photo of Armstrong in his flight suit, with a simple "Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012."

“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits," his family said in a statement released by NASA.

And his family has one request for the American people.

"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.”

Share your recollections of the first moon landing in our comments section.

Le Anne Lindsay August 26, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Despite the obvious loss to family and friends, I never mourn the loss of people of this caliber because they came here to do what they were meant to do, and got the most out of life. I mourn for those of us who will leave here, never having got it together. I do wonder what kind of alien, other dimension, government conspiracy type secrets he died knowing though.
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