Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the moon, or any celestial body off the earth, for that matter, has passed at the age of 82.
I was all of two and a half when Armstrong landed on the moon, and I'm told I slept through all the good parts. Still, the space bug hit me hard in the early seventies and my mom would occasionally let me be late to school to watch the telly if a launch was scheduled. I would write letters to NASA and they would send me these great big packets of pamphets, brochures and posters. My favorite book for a time was Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel".
There was a time when I knew all the names of the crews of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Now it's just Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. Well, and Shepard and Glenn.
Past the confines of the atmosphere is cool. Round and round the earth in a truly spacey orbit is amazing. But to spin a few orbits, then risk it all to zip out to that other crazy nearby round rock of rubbley regolith, actually land and have a hearty look around, well, that my friends is a jaw-droppin' pants-wetting good time. We throw around the word hero a lot. And generally speaking, I like to reserve it for people who risk their own lives and well-being to help others in immediate danger. That being said, I'm more than OK with the moniker hero being stuck on Neil Armstrong. He and Buzz and Mike certainly risked their lives. Not so much to save lives, but to further science, to inspire a nation, to set a stepping stone to skylab and the space shuttle and hubble and the ISS and all our dandy probes to Mars and out to the edges of the solar system. And to give this young fellow, and I'm sure countless others another dream to add to fireman, race car driver, and fighter pilot.
Thank you Neil Armstrong. I hope the eagle soars again.