How did I miss that he died the other day? The man was one of Young Me’s heroes growing up. I will always remember the exact moment on July 21, 1969, when he took his famous, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I was seven that summer, and we were in our family room in the house in Penn Hills, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, glued to the television. Mom and dad had cracked a bottle of champagne and allowed Diane and Ray to have a glass. I don’t remember if Lorraine, who is older than Ray by a year, had a glass, but I do remember Diane and Ray giggling.
When Neil took that famous step, you could hear cheers all around the neighborhood. Flags were flying, and there was a sense of wonder and amazement. I can still picture the black-and-white tv with Walter Cronkite and others talking about the momentous feat that we, as a nation, accomplished. I remember Mom saying something about how proud President Kennedy would have been. Beyond that, it’s all more a memory of sensations than of real moments of time.
Forty-four years later, we’re only now starting to look at a return to the Moon, which hasn’t had a human walk on it since 1972. We need to fix that — without space, and the technologies developed for living there, the future of humanity is much less exciting. We need to look to the heavens for inspiration. Humanity must reach for the stars.
But we need to look back and honor those who paved the way. Neil Armstrong was larger than life to many of us, and will always stay so. He was the first human to intentionally walk on a world that isn’t Earth (because, you know, ALIENS) — how could he not be larger than life? He inspired a life-long love of all things space in me, and for that, I remain forever in his debt.
Rest in Peace, Neil.