The Death Of One Man, A Tragic Loss For Mankind
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” One of the most famous phrases in the world, and they weren’t actually the first words spoken on the Moon. That’s the phrase that everybody likes but in reality “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” were the first words ever to be spoken on the Moon.
One of the greatest human beings of all time, Neil Armstrong, died on Saturday 25th August 2012, at the ripe age of 82. I was really and truly upset by this news. Michael Jackson died; I didn’t really notice. Steve Jobs died; honestly I didn’t know who he was before he did. I’m not saying they weren’t great people and I’m not detracting from their lives at all but, personally, their deaths didn’t make any sort of impact on my life. But yesterday morning, when Stephen Fry tweeted that Neil Armstrong had died, I genuinely felt upset. He was a real life superhero, and the fact that I’d have loved to have been an astronaut is only a small part of why I admired him.
Now, I struggled with this article; I didn’t want to sound like a Wikipedia page, but at the same time I did want everybody to know about all the great things Armstrong did. He was in the Navy, he was a pilot, he was an astronaut and he was a teacher. He accomplished so much, but let’s focus on the astronaut bit, because that’s definitely the coolest.
So the rocket landed on the Moon at around 8.17pm July 20th 1969. There were some tense moments with a manual landing, but there was no real designated spot to land in, the idea was just to land without killing themselves. A good six and a half hours later, Armstrong shimmied down the ladder, followed by Buzz Aldrin about twenty minutes after that. They did all the things they needed to do, putting up a flag (which they managed to bend in transit, so it looked like it was waving in a non-existent breeze) and lots of clever, geeky things like putting reflectors on the surface. Admittedly, the thing about the reflectors is something I saw on The Big Bang Theory, but it sounded legit so I googled it, and it is the Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment, which measures the distance between the Earth and the Moon by shooting lasers at it. Pretty clever eh?
Aside from all the science-y stuff they did up there, Armstrong’s final task was leave a memorial to the cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space), Vladimir Komarov (the first man to die in space) and to the astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee, who all died in the first Apollo mission. Discovering this restored my faith in humanity. Apollo 1 was to be the first manned mission in the lunar landing program, but a cabin fire destroyed the command module and killed all three crew members. Armstrong had just landed on the Moon. The Moon! But he took the time to show his respect for the great astronauts who never made it to where he was standing. That’s pretty remarkable if you ask me.
Now, moving on to different parts of his life. Armstrong taught for eight years in the department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati after resigning from the NASA space program. He married twice, and had three children with his first wife.
Around three weeks ago, he had a bypass surgery to unclog blocked arteries, and the complications from this operation were the cause of his death. Buzz Aldrin has released a statement expressing his grief over the passing of Neil. He said that he was “A true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew.” I wholeheartedly agree. Neil Armstrong was a space pioneer, and ultimately, one of the greatest idols anyone could ever look up to. Neil’s family released a statement which I loved: “For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour 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.” Go on, #WinkAtTheMoon.