HONOLULU, August 25, 2012 — The passing of Neil Armstrong today leaves a gaping hole in the fabric of our American tapestry of 20th century heroes and pioneers. As the first astronaut to land and walk on the surface of the Moon, Armstrong forever enshrined America as the nation that put the footprints of men on another world.
Neil Armstrong was truly a legendary pilot in America’s extraordinary time of space innovation, a member of a select few of whom aerospace historians like Tom Wolfe described as having “the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery” – men who had the “right stuff” to get America into that wild blue yonder and whatever was beyond.
On Twitter, Buzz Aldrin, Armstrong’s Lunar Module pilot, posted a tribute, calling him a “true American hero and the best pilot I ever saw.”
In The Right Stuff, Wolfe wrote of Armstrong as typical of a new breed of test pilots who had the perfect balance of pilot skills and engineering. “You’d ask him a question, and he would just stare at you with those pale blue eyes of his,” Wolfe wrote, “and you’d start to ask the question again, figuring he hadn’t understood, and – click – out of his mouth would come forth a sequence of long, quiet, perfectly formed, precisely thought-out sentences, full of anisotropic functions and multiple-encounter trajectories, or whatever else was called for. It was as if his hesitations were just data punch-in intervals for his computer.”
Though I was not old enough to witness Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the Moon, growing up in the eighties my generation heard all about his exploits and what it meant for America. When I was in my teens and a cadet in Air Force JROTC, our aerospace instructors instilled in us the sense that men like Armstrong were only the beginning, and it was up to us to take America faster, farther and higher.
We in America are truly blessed to have men like Neil Armstrong and others who represent not only the pinnacle of courage and leadership, but who serve as inspirations for what we are capable of when we work together for a heavenly calling.
Armstrong walked on the surface of the Moon when American morale was at its lowest amid social unrest, war in Vietnam and a bad economy. His giant leap for mankind reminded us to look not below, but to the heavens, and his passing ought to spur us to never quit in our pursuit of that which is above. What he did for us then serves as a lesson for the times that we are in now. Let us never forget Neil Armstrong and his contribution to the American Century.
To the family and friends of Neil Armstrong I say, God bless you and thank you so very much, on behalf of grateful nation. We will remember his deeds with both word and action and we will, one day, go back to the Moon and beyond.
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