NBC News reports that astronaut and icon Neil Armstrong passed away earlier today due to complications from a heart-bypass operation he underwent a few weeks ago. He was 82.
Though his merits were many, Armstrong was best known for one thing. On that fateful day back in July 1969, with the eyes of history watching, he clambered down the ladder on the front leg of the Lunar Module “Eagle” to become the first man to set foot on the Moon.
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” he said. Though Apollo 11 was his first and only Moon mission, the events of that day and those words would follow him for the rest of this life.
In that moment, Armstrong became more than just a man — he became a symbol of ingenuity and the drive of the human race. He, along with Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, proved to half a billion people back on earth (and countless others in the years to come) that the potential for mankind to reach for ever-higher heights was perhaps limitless.
A piece like this may seem a bit out of place on a site like TechCrunch, but the amazing technical achievements that went into putting not only Armstrong, but Buzz Aldrin, Pete Conrad, Al Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, Dave Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Eugene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt on the moon can’t be overlooked. There’s no shortage of devices and products that were born from space age innovations, but perhaps more importantly, walking on the Moon inspired a generation of people to pursue engineering and the sciences.
And Armstrong was first. Of his brief time spent exploring the surface of another heavenly body, Armstrong had this to say:
“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”
You may have felt small, Mr. Armstrong, but rest assured — you were a giant to the rest of us. Godspeed.