(The Blaze/AP) — Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died at 82, NBC News reported.
Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, a statement Saturday from his family said. The statement did not say where he died.
ABC News adds:
On July 20, 1969, half a billion people — a sixth of the world’s population at the time — watched a ghostly black-and-white television image as Armstrong backed down the ladder of the lunar landing ship Eagle, planted his left foot on the moon’s surface, and said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Twenty minutes later his crewmate, Buzz Aldrin, joined him, and the world watched as the men spent the next two hours bounding around in the moon’s light gravity, taking rock samples, setting up experiments, and taking now-iconic photographs.
“Isn’t this fun?” Armstrong said over his radio link to Aldrin. The third member of the Apollo 11 crew, Michael L. Collins, orbited 60 miles overhead in the mission’s command ship, Columbia. President Richard Nixon called their eight-day trip to the moon “the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation.”
“The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to,” Armstrong once said of the experience.
The moonwalk marked America’s victory in the Cold War space race that began Oct. 4, 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, a 184-pound satellite that sent shock waves around the world.
Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA’s forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamor of the space program.
“I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. “And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
ABC has video of the historic event:
The 1969 landing met an audacious deadline that President Kennedy had set in May 1961, shortly after Alan Shepard became the first American in space with a 15-minute suborbital flight. (Soviet cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin had orbited the Earth and beaten the U.S. into space the previous month.)
“I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth,” Kennedy had said. “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important to the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
The end-of-decade goal was met with more than five months to spare. “Houston: Tranquility Base here,” Armstrong radioed after the spacecraft settled onto the moon. “The Eagle has landed.”
“Roger, Tranquility,” the Houston staffer radioed back. “We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.”
Watch Armstrong reminisce about the landing with Walter Cronkite:
A man who kept away from cameras, Armstrong went public in 2010 with his concerns about President Barack Obama’s space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon. He testified before Congress and in an email to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he had “substantial reservations,” and along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, signed a letter calling the plan a “misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.”
“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges,” Armstrong once explained. “It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul…We’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”
In 1994, he urged America to continue exploring.
“There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth’s protective layers…There are places to go beyond belief.”
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