WASHINGTON: Neil Amstrong, who set mankind’s first steps on the moon during Apollo 11, the mission that finally made extraterrestrial travel seem real and gave the U.S. a lead in the Cold War space race, has died. He was 82.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, citing Armstrong’s family, said he died of complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. Earlier this month, the Associated Press reported that Armstrong had undergone heart surgery.
A record television audience of 528 million people worldwide watched Armstrong, the mission commander, step off the ladder of the lunar module Eagle and onto the moon’s surface at 10:56 p.m. New York time on July 20, 1969. He was followed by pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin about 20 minutes later. Michael Collins remained in orbit, in the command module that would take them all home.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said, a sentence that became one of the most quoted of the 20th century. He told NASA interviewers that he had intended to say “a man,” and that the article “a” might have been lost in transmission. He said his inspiration was the children’s game known as “Baby Steps, Giant Steps.”
The final minutes of the four-day, 239,000-mile trip to the moon had tested Armstrong’s famous cool under pressure.
Piloting the lunar module, he searched for a safe landing spot amid rough terrain, finally touching down with about 20 seconds of fuel left. Back in Houston, mission control had been on the verge of ordering him to abort the landing and return to the command module.(Bloomberg/tw)