Saturday, August 25, 2012

SECOND COMES RIGHT AFTER FIRST: Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, has died at the age of 82.

Plenty of ink will be spilled about Armstrong's incredible career as a fighter pilot, test pilot, astronaut, engineering professor and private citizen. I can't do that on short notice and probably not as well.

But I can say this: it is almost certain that no name from the 20th century is apt to last longer that Neil Armstrong. Whether we ever become -- as I ardently hope we do -- a spacefaring species spreading out among the stars, or slip back down into medieval destitution, in the longest term, what Armstrong did on July 20, 1969 will remain the most important symbol of human achievement in the 20th century and probably the second millenium.

Good Luck, Mr. Armstrong. Ad Astra and Goodbye.

ETA: Here's exactly the sort of remembrance I knew I wasn't going to top.


  1. Joseph Finn4:39 PM

    There's not much else you can say about a man who did his job so well in so many fields, except that it's a damn shame we haven't taken advantage of such people again.  No person born since 1935 has walked on the Moon.

  2. Hero. What else is there to say? Uncommon bravery, and uncommon humility.

  3. Janice7:45 PM

    Several years ago, I attended a Purdue University alumni function at the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum.  We were all ushered into the IMAX theater for a talk from what we thought were some university bigwigs.  Instead, out came Neil Armstrong.  No one in the audience knew, and the reaction from everyone there still brings tears to my eyes, just like it did then.

  4. TPE, you're not by chance attending the 100-Year Starship Project's Symposium in Houston next month, are you?

  5. J.O'Connor3:09 AM

    Maybe it's that the aftertaste of the Lance Armstrong story has left the concept of hero somewhat curdled.  Maybe its the fact that it's far too late for me to be reading blogs.  But I have two somewhat churlish thoughts, which if I were more awake I would probably not post. 

    The first is just the appreciation that brave and heroic as Armstrong was -- and I agree with everything everyone has said here and is going to say tomorrow on every news program about his heroism -- Armstrong stood on the shoulders of a lot of equally brave and less well-remembered folks, some of whom like Shepard, Glen, Gagarin I know off the top of my head, and others, like the astronauts who flew the earlier Apollo missions, I'd have to look up, not to mention the army of engineers, technicians, scientists and craftsman behind them.  I think the singular vividness of what he accomplished, the first human being to touch the moon, unfairly overshadows a lot of others who should also be remembered and appreciated.

    The second is the doubt that Armstrong's fame will long endure if humans stop pursuing manned space exploration, much less if we slip back to medieval destitution.  Being first only matters if you bring other people behind you.  Around the corner from where I live is a statue honoring Christopher Columbus, next to a street named after him, in a country that celebrates him every year in a national holiday and whose federal district incorporates his name.  I'm not sure anyone even knows the name of the Norseman who first landed at L'Anse aux Meadows. 

  6. Molly7:14 AM

    I remember a TV reporter at the time of the moon landing saying he'd talked to many of the people who'd worked with the three astronauts -- Collins, Aldrin, Armstrong -- and he'd asked them which of the the three he'd want with him if stranded on a desert island.  Immediately, several said Collins because he was a great guy, lots of fun, would be easy to be with.  Others thought about it a bit and said Aldrin because he was a bit more spiritual, philosophical, and there'd be some great conversations on that island.  Finally, one guy who hadn't yet said anything answered that he'd pick Armstrong.  The others seemed puzzled -- they said Armstrong was a great guy, too, but not as friendly or interesting as Collins and Aldrin.  I know that, the man said, but Armstrong would be the one who'd get us home. 

    I'm remembering this from when it was originally broadcast in 1969 so I'm paraphrasing, and perhaps it's a famous anecdote which others tell so much better -- but when I heard that Neil Armstrong was dead, it was the first thing I thought about.  Makes me feel a little less safe, knowing that the guy who would have brought us home isn't around anymore.  RIP, Neil Armstrong.

  7. The Pathetic Earthling9:39 AM

    Alas, no.  I'm working on starting my own (non-legal) startup right now.  Mayhap I'll have the money in a few years to help out wtih such a project down the road.

  8. I'd love to get your feedback on a paper I'm doing for the symposium, if you have the time, but I have some sense of what start-ups entail, so I perfectly understand if you don't!

  9. Some
    May Say 
    I'm Wishing My Days Away
    No Way.
    But If It's the Price I Pay
    Some Say
    Tomorrow's Another Day
    You Stay
    I May As Well Play

  10. The Pathetic Earthling7:34 PM

    Russ: email me at atlloyd  -funny symbol- gmail  dot you know what.

  11. For what it's worth, Armstrong consistently expressed his appreciation for those who made the Apollo program possible.  If the engineers and technicians have been forgotten, it's not because of Neil.