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America Loses A 'Reluctant Hero' — Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012 [POLL]

Vote in our Patch Poll on the legacy of his historic first steps on the moon.

His family called him "a reluctant American hero" who was just doing his job.

But Neil A. Armstrong, who died Saturday of complications from heart bypass surgery, was a hero.

He was just shy of his 39th birthday when he lumbered down the ladder from the Apollo 11 spacecraft and stepped onto the stark lunar landscape on July 20, 1969.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he said, as Americans around the country watched in awe at the live footage from dark space, so far away.

That step fulfilled a challenge President John F. Kennedy issued in the early 1960s —to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

Armstrong began his career as a Navy fighter pilot and test pilot before being tapped for a highly selective position as a NASA astronaut in 1962.

NASA's website this morning features a photo of Armstrong in his flight suit, with a simple "Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012."

“He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits," his family said in a statement released by NASA.

And his family has one request for the American people.

"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.”

Share your recollections of the first moon landing in our comments section.

Michael Woyton August 26, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I think there's more to come in space—look at Curiosity, for example—but right now there doesn't seem to be the focus, the drive or the MONEY. Our lives are different because of what the space program has done. We seriously cannot afford to let it shrivel up and die.
Miriam Edelstein August 27, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I agree with Michael. I don't think anyone realizes how much we owe to the space program! Too bad we've lost the focus and drive...There's money for everything else--and think of the jobs it would create..

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