Monday, August 27, 2012
chat (through email) with the real nephew of Neil Armstrong. He told a story about his uncle helping a woman whose car broke down in a store parking lot in Wisconsin. At some point, the woman noticed that the man underneath the hood of her car looked familiar. When she mentioned to him that he resembled Neil Armstrong, he quipped, "Yeah. I get that a lot".
I suspect that the woman went home, put her food in the frig, and over dinner told her family about the nice man who helped her in the parking lot. She might have even mentioned that he looked like the first man to walk on the moon.
Neil Armstrong called himself a "nerdy engineer". He probably hated being called a "hero" and reminded people that thousands of people worked to make that great moment happen. But on July 20, 1969, it was Neil Armstrong who took the controls of the lunar lander, known as the Eagle. When it became apparent that the automatic pilot was going to set the Eagle down in an area filled with giant boulders and craters, Neil Armstrong flew it manually. With only a minute of fuel left, he searched for a safe place to land. Back on earth in Mission Control the atmosphere was so tense that famed Flight Director Gene Kranz told the Flight Communicator Charlie Duke "You’d better remind them there ain’t no damn gas stations on the moon." Even with all those years of planning and all that hard work from thousands of people in private companies and government agencies, there nothing Mission Control could do. It was all in the hands of one man.
Along with the rest of the world, Mission Control waited.
With only twenty seconds of fuel left, the lunar lander touched down. Neil Armstrong calmly announced "the Eagle has landed."
The world cheered.
A few hours later, that "nerdy engineer" took that first historic step.
Here's part of the statement from Neil Armstrong's family:
"...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.”