The first man to set foot on the Moon has died after complications arising from his recent heart surgery. Neil Armstrong, the US astronaut, who walked on the Moon in an historic event on July 20 1969, had the surgery earlier this month to relieve four blocked arteries, but never fully recovered.
Armstrong was born in 1930 where he grew up in Ohio, and developed a life long passion for flying after he took his first flight at the tender age of six with his father. He flew Navy fighter jets during the Korean War in the 1950s, and joined the US space programme in 1962. Armstrong famously described the iconic moment of walking on the Moon as “One small step for man – One giant leap for mankind.”
His family have issued a statement which reads as follows: “We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati. He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits. As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life. 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.”
Tributes to this astonishing man are already beginning to flood in as UK astronomer Sir Patrick Moore said: “As the first man on the moon, he broke all records. I knew him well. Neil Armstrong was a man who had all the courage in the world.” Jamie Burgess, from the National Space Centre, told Sky News: “It’s extremely sad news. It’s a terrible shock to the science community. Armstrong will be sorely missed.”
Whilst Mike Cruise, professor of astrophysics and space research at the University of Birmingham, said: “The people at the front of the race always have to tread on new ground. Neil Armstrong led the whole world into a space era of greater proportion than has been achieved by satellites. You wonder when his first steps will be followed up. It must have been very awe-inspiring to step on to, essentially, a new planet.” An extremely private person in his later years, Armstrong said in a rare interview that, “I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer.” Armstrong lived with his wife Carol, who he married in 1999 in the Cincinnati suburb of Indian Hill.
Last November Armstrong received the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest US civilian award.