US astronaut Neil Armstrong dies

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Armstrong in his space suit before the launch of Apollo 11.
Image: NASA.

Former American astronaut Neil Armstrong has died at the age of 82, due to complications following heart bypass surgery earlier this month. He is known as the first person to walk on the moon when commander of Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the moon.

Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. On March 16, 1966, he became the first American civilian to orbit Earth whilst onboard Gemini VIII with crewmate Davis R. Scott. Following Gemini VIII's docking with another spacecraft in orbit, it began tumbling out of control due to a faulty thruster. Armstrong used an emergency set of thrusters to regain control; Gemini VIII then landed in the Pacific Ocean after ten hours of flight.

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, with Armstrong and crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Whilst Collins stayed in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20; On touchdown, Armstrong said: "Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed". Upon stepping on to the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969, he famously said, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." The landing, and subsequent moonwalk, was watched by half a billion people around the world. Armstrong and Aldrin spent approximately two hours walking on the lunar surface before lifting off for Apollo 11's return to Earth on July 24.

Neil Armstrong describes the Moon's surface before setting foot on it.
Video: NASA.

Armstrong later spent a few years as a NASA manager. Also teaching engineering at the University of Cincinnati, he was appointed to panels investigating the Apollo 13 and Challenger disasters. His first wife, Jan, divorced him in 1995; he married Carol Knight in 1999, and lived in Cincinnati.

After Armstrong's death, his family released a statement saying, "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."

Buzz Aldrin released a statement on his website paying tribute to Armstrong: "I will miss my friend Neil as I know our fellow citizens and people around world will miss this foremost aviation and space pioneer."


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