~ Neil Armstrong, quoted in First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
Astronaut Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, passed away today at the age of 82. NASA has published an excellent obituary and appreciation of his life.
Since Armstrong's historic moon walk in 1969, only 11 other men have followed in his footsteps, most recently in 1972. I find myself saddened that we have not expanded our human presence in our solar system beyond Earth orbit in those 40 years.
Armstrong was a supporter of NASA's Constellation Program,which aimed to take humans to Mars. As he stated in his 2010 testimony to Congress when that program was cancelled:
If the leadership we have acquired through our investment is allowed simply to fade away, other nations will surely step in where we have faltered. I do not believe that this would be in our best interests.
The now to be cancelled Constellation program showed promise to fulfill lofty goals with a high level of safety and flexibility.
Will the European Space Agency, or China or Russia eventually send humans back to the Moon or Mars or beyond even if NASA does not? I think we humans will land on Mars eventually, since as Armstrong stated almost 50 years ago, the challenge is in our nature.
But when that does happen, Neil Armstrong will still have a permanent place in history as the first human to set foot on solid ground beyond the Earth. A "giant leap for mankind" indeed!
And tonight we can all do as his family requests:
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.”RIP Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)