Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012: One Giant Loss for Mankind

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon or any other world beyond Earth, died today. The former test pilot and NASA astronaut recently celebrated his 82nd birthday, and underwent heart surgery just weeks ago.

He commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, and radioed back to Earth the historic line, "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." He walked on the moon for nearly 3 hours with fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.

He died today of complications following his cardiac surgery.

That's one giant loss for mankind. Godspeed, Sir.

Via Miles O'Brien, a statement from Armstrong's family released through their website:

“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.”

More: NBC News, which was first to report the news; the New York Times, CBS News, and his home-state paper.

His bio, from NASA:

Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. He began his NASA career in Ohio.

After serving as a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1955. His first assignment was with the NACA Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn) in Cleveland. Over the next 17 years, he was an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator for NACA and its successor agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

As a research pilot at NASA's Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., he was a project pilot on many pioneering high speed aircraft, including the well known, 4000-mph X-15. He has flown over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.

Armstrong transferred to astronaut status in 1962. He was assigned as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission. Gemini 8 was launched on March 16, 1966, and Armstrong performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.

As spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, Armstrong gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the moon and first to step on its surface.

Armstrong subsequently held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In this position, he was responsible for the coordination and management of overall NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics.

He was Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati between 1971-1979. During the years 1982-1992, Armstrong was chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., Charlottesville, Va.

He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California. He holds honorary doctorates from a number of universities.

Armstrong is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the Royal Aeronautical Society; Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the International Astronautics Federation.

He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco. He served as a member of the National Commission on Space (1985-1986), as Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (1986), and as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps (1971-1973).

Armstrong has been decorated by 17 countries. He is the recipient of many special honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Congressional Space Medal of Honor; the Explorers Club Medal; the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy; the NASA Distinguished Service Medal; the Harmon International Aviation Trophy; the Royal Geographic Society's Gold Medal; the Federation Aeronautique Internationale's Gold Space Medal; the American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award; the Robert J. Collier Trophy; the AIAA Astronautics Award; the Octave Chanute Award; and the John J. Montgomery Award.


  1. Damn. A sad day. I was 15 and watching that fuzzy black and white image when he stepped on the Moon. RIP.

      1. The table shows the first death having taken place in 1991, as it did when Irwin died of a heart attack.

      2. Just realized you probably meant “the first projected death” should have been this year. Yeah, that is creepy. And we can expect another five deaths by 2020.

  2. I’m too young to have seen him step on the Moon, but I think he was perhaps the perfect person for the historical task. He was an aerospace-engineer who worked as a test pilot on the X-15. As an astronaut he resigned his Naval officer’s commission to work as a civilian (the 2nd in the world and the 1st American). He was obviously calm under pressure as the Gemini-5 8 mission incident proved. And to me it seemed that he had no ego nor a political axe to grind. It makes me happy to know that the first human to step foot on another celestial body was a civilian and didn’t use the opportunity to gain money or power over other people. He didn’t try to symbolically conquer the Moon, he only tried to visit it and study it. And it appeared to me that he did so out of the opportunity and duty, not out of greed.

    A great man has passed.

    Correction: Gemini-8

  3. What a shock to see the header! I was born a few months after the moon landing, so the image of him stepping down the ladder has been an iconic image my whole life.

    He may be gone, but he will live on forever.

    1. …the image of him stepping down the ladder has been an iconic image my whole life.

      Especially the part about killing The Silence on sight.

  4. We’re saying goodbye to Neil Armstrong, but if it’s any consolation to those who were lucky enough to know him, his name is surely immortal.

  5. It must have been sad for him to see the U.S. without a manned space vehicle of any kind while spending trillions of dollars on senseless wars and filling the greedy coffers of the already rich.

  6. Someone needs to crowd-source a rocket to send his ashes to the moon. That would be a f*#king heroic tribute. Doesn’t have to be fancy.

  7. This makes me so sad. Not only because I remember the moonwalk and the collective global astonishment it produced as a vivid childhood highlight, but because it was inconceivable at the time that Armstrong would not have lived to see humanity travel anywhere else off the planet.

    I hope we come up with some great way to honor him.

  8. It seems somewhat fitting that we lost him only after the Curiosity landing. It’s like his soul just wanted to make sure we were again on the right course, after the disappointing loss of the Shuttle.

  9. That photo on the cover of Nat Geo is actually of Aldrin, although you can see a bit of Armstrong reflected in Aldrin’s visor. 

    Armstrong carried the camera so almost all Apollo 11 photos on the lunar surface are really of Aldrin.

    I got to briefly meet Armstrong and shake his hand in 1972 because of my geologist cousin’s (Roald Fryxell) NASA activities and took this picture of the two of them:

    1. Armstrong carried the camera

      Yeah if Armstrong had a fault it was his reluctance to delegate. Another example was the 1202 error during descent. This should have been handled by Aldrin and mission control, but Armstrong allowed it to distract him, and flew the LM into dangerous terrain at low altitude as a result.

      1.  No, the camera was his assigned role.  They thoroughly rehearsed every elaborate timeline detail of that flight.  Who would carry the camera was not something decided when they got there.

        Nor did he carelessly fly it into “dangerous terrain”.  Your 1202 story is an absurd concoction. The 1202 error was noted and managed by Aldrin during the descent.

        Armstrong took control of the flight of the LM from the automatic system to fly it OUT of danger.

        1. Robcat is correct.  The computer alarms were executive overflow; the computer was being asked to do too many tasks at once.  It was up to Aldrin to respond to that problem, and he and a young Steve Bales on the ground did just that.  The Landing Point Designator indicated that Eagle was going to fly into a crater.  Armstrong took over to fly it past the crater manually.

  10. Per ardua ad astra.


    I recently got around to reading The Right Stuff. Truly, he had it. Astronauts are awesome.

  11. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. 

    I hope they name the next rover after him and as sad as it might be to say, I hope they bury some his ashes on a cenotaph on the moon, next to where the Eagle had landed…

    (Anyone want to run this as a Kickstarter project?)

  12. thank you for this beautiful tribute to a truly incredible man.. he will be remembered for his bravery for many many generations to come..  

  13. A thousand years from now children will still learn about Gagarin and Armstrong and all the asshattery and other hubris of these two centuries will have faded from memory.
    Godspeed mr. Armstrong, a genuine hero to all mankind.

  14. I was 3 yrs old in Haarlem, Holland, when my dad put me in front of a black-and-white tv set and made me watch this man be the hope of mankind. I am at a loss, but intensely grateful. Thank you, Mr. Armstrong.

  15. RIP, Neil.

    Xeni, as long as we’re acknowledging Buzz Aldrin, let’s also tip our hats to the third man, Michael Collins, who gamely kept the motor warm while the other two got to play around on the Moon.

  16. I’m currently watching “Moon Shot” with the kids… so that they understand exactly why, as someone said earlier, Neil Armstrong *was* a “Real American Hero”.

    RIP, Neil.  What you did was one of the few things that happened before my birth that makes me wish I’d been born earlier.

  17. Wow, my birthday was going so well (except for the bit of having to work on a Saturday, but then I love my job)… What sad, sad news to hear. :(

  18. And now, friends, let’s have another big tax cut.   And chop another ten per cent or so off the NASA budget.  And decide we can’t afford to send humans beyond low earth orbit for another decade or so.  Or maybe ever.

    And then we can bury Neil Armstrong and swear we’ll remember him forever.

  19. I was pumping gas that day, alone, in my first “real” job. Missed the touchdown and finally convinced the owner of the station on the phone to shut down and I rushed home.
    There was no one on the roads. Absolutely zero traffic.
    Got there just in time for his first footstep.
    I’d say it a sign of our time that the day a great human was leaving this earth (again) Snooki was giving birth.

  20. Like others said – a true hero who inspired generations of people. He will be missed.. Godspeed.

    In order to lighten the mood here is one of my favorite urban legends/jokes about Armstrong:

    At one point during his famous walk on the moon, Neil casually said, “Good luck, Mr Kilwoski.” It was an off the cuff moment and no one knew at the time who he was talking about. Some thought it was a rival Cosmonaut or Russian scientist. When asked who Mr. Kilwoski was, he only replied, “A friend.” and left it at that.

    It wasn’t until much later that he was asked again who Mr. Kilwoski was. Neil said that since he was probably dead now, he may as well share the story. When he was younger the Kilwoskis were he neighbors. One day he hit a ball into their yard and went to retrieve it. He ended up under their bed room window where he could hear them arguing. Mrs. Kilwoski was yelling, “Oral sex? You want oral sex? I’ll give you oral sex when the neighbor boy walks on the moon!”

  21. Air and Space museums are my favorite places in the world. My mind is boggled when standing next to the rockets and capsules. I stare into those tiny capsules and think about every phase of the mission, how daring it all is, and I can’t believe a braver man exists. Calling these guys my childhood heros would be an understatement.

    Think I will watch The Right Stuff tonight!

  22. Thanks for all the inspiration. Humanity requires it.
    Look forward to the near-zero-gravity ribbon-cutting ceremony for the future moon-based Armstrong memorial.

  23. In related news, the global index of intestinal fortitude dropped a notch or two today. He had nerves of steel, that one.

  24. It somehow feels inappropriate to repost that video of the moon landing with the profanity-filled narration, but I’m going to go watch it myself. 

  25. What a list of achievements! Flying over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders is unreal let alone the rest.

  26. Godspeed Mr. Armstrong.  You represented what was best in us all.

    I cannot help but think that perhaps Neil spent his later years disappointed in us as a people and a culture.  He and his pals achieved SO very much ,with so very little, by todays standards, and today we couldn’t return to the Moon if we wanted to.  (We literally cannot.  The Saturn V lifters are obsolete and cannot be re created with modern tech, believe it or not.)

    We had so many opportunities,  So much potential. We led the world in science, engineering and math,  and now we have….nothing.

    Goodby Neil,  we’re sorry we let you down.

  27. I honestly thought this man, and all the other astronauts who made history that decade, were immortal. I was in massive disbelief when I heard the news. But the fact is that our memories and their incredible feats did make them immortal. None of us will forget, ever. In a thousand years they will still be legends, and no one will have to add any flourishes to their story. RIP, Neil. 

  28. We were sent home from school  so we could watch the moon landing on TV.

    TV suddenly became “video”.

  29. RIP Neil Armstrong
    The events you experience as a child continue to resonate throughout your life. Here’s a picture I drew at Tamaki Primary School, Panmure, Auckland, New Zealand aged 5, on 21 July 1969.

    I wrote “Today a spaceman landed on the moon.” My Mum saved it, and gave it to me, framed, for my 30th birthday. Bless her.

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