As you’ve surely heard by now, Neil Armstrong — or, as NBC calls him, Neil Young — has passed away at age 82 from complications following cardiac surgery. He led the Apollo 11 mission which landed humans on the moon on July 20th, 1969. Armstrong was the first to step on the surface, and we’d like to believe it went like this.
Many people might not know just how unflappable Neil Armstrong was. Nicknamed the “Ice Commander”, he once casually returned to his office after ejecting from a failing piece of training equipment just seconds before it exploded. He showed the same resolve on the moon when the chosen landing area was found to be full of large boulders. Armstrong had to manually land the craft in a better spot. There was only 25 seconds worth of fuel left when he finally found a suitable landing spot, but you wouldn’t have known it by Armstrong’s cool demeanor.
Despite all the attention he received, Neil Armstrong remained humble. In 2000, he told America’s National Press Club, “I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer, born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace and propelled by compressible flow.” He never tried to get a TV show or movie deals or chase fame and adulation. A rarity these days when every douchebag and their pregnant teenager wants their own reality show. Neil Armstrong was cooler than you.
As for people who think the moon landing didn’t happen, Armstrong spoke of them in his final interview: “It was never a concern… I know that somebody is going to go fly back up there and pick up that camera I left.” Good attitude, although we’d prefer if people who try to minimize Armstrong’s work had to answer to Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Remember the time Buzz punched a moon landing denier in the face? Good times. Good times.
Aldrin and the Armstrong family released statements (available here) about their loss. We particularly liked this section of the family’s statement:
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.