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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong dead at 82: First man to walk on the Moon passes away following heart surgery, 43 years after giant leap for mankind

•Former astronaut Neil Armstrong captained Apollo 11 mission to the moon
•He and fellow NASA astronaut Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin spent nearly three hours on lunar surface
•Served in U.S. Navy in Korean War and flew 78 missions during combat
•After lunar landing, took worldwide tour with Apollo 11 crew and met Queen Elizabeth II during 38-day journey
•Famously stayed out of public view following moon landing; friends said he had no interest in becoming a novelty

By Beth Stebner

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82, after suffering complications from heart surgery, his family said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the former NASA astronaut had undergone heart surgery.

He famously uttered the quote moments after setting foot on the lunar surface: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’

Scroll down for videos of the first man on the moon

One giant leap: Neil Armstrong, who made the first mission to the moon in 1969 and was the first to step foot on the lunar surface, has died, aged 82

Legacy: A footprint left by one of the astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission shows in the soft, powder surface of the moon

Touchdown: Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong leaves a footprint on the surface of the Moon at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969

Lunar landing: Astronauts Neil Armstrong, left, and Buzz Aldrin, right, place an American flag on the lunar surface as taken from the Eagle Lunar Module

Tuning in: A shadow-shrouded Neil Armstrong begins to deploy equipment a few minutes after taking the first momentous and historic step; half a billion tuned in to watch the moment

A statement from the family says he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. It doesn't say where he died.

According to NBC News, the Armstrong family wrote in a statement: ‘Next time you walk outside on clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil and give him a wink.’

NASA, too, was quick to express their sympathies, tweeting: ‘NASA offers its condolences on today's passing of Neil Armstrong, former test pilot, astronaut & the 1st man on the moon.’

President Obama in a statement hailed the late astronaut Neil Armstrong as one of America's greatest heroes.

In a statement issued by the White House, Mr Obama said Armstrong and the rest of the crew of Apollo 11 carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation when they set out for the moon in 1969.

The president says that when Armstrong set foot on the moon, he delivered what he called 'a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.'

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, too, offered his condolences, writing on Twitter: 'Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes. The moon will miss its first son of earth.'

As commander of the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.

The legendary astronaut was born on August 5, 1930, near Wapakoneta, Ohio.

He went on to work in the military, fighting in the Korean War. Later, he would pilot planes for NASA, and eventually, spacecrafts.

During the historic mission on July 20, 1969, nearly half a billion people tuned in to watch the black and white mission to the moon, where Armstrong, joined by Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, spent some two hours loping around on the eerie grey surface.

He radioed back to Earth the historic news of 'one giant leap for mankind.'

'The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to,' Armstrong once said.

Master and commander: Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969, and is pictured smiling in the vessel

Documenting: Armstrong, pictured in April 1969 holding a video camera, spent years training for the monumental launch

The moonwalk marked America's victory in the Cold War space race that began October 4, 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, a 184-pound satellite that sent shock waves around the world.

Although he had been a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for NASA's forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamor of the space program.

'I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,' he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. 'And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.'

However, his Apollo 11 moon mission turned out to be Armstrong's last space flight.

The following year he was appointed to a desk job, being named NASA's deputy associate administrator for aeronautics in the office of advanced research and technology.

He left NASA a year later to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

A man who kept away from cameras, Armstrong went public in 2010 with his concerns about President Barack Obama's space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon and emphasized private companies developing spaceships.

He testified before Congress and in an email to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he had 'substantial reservations,' and along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, he signed a letter calling the plan a 'misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.'

Moon mission: U.S.astronaut Buzz Aldrin salutes the American flag on the moon's surface; Aldrin was the second man on the moon following Neil Armstrong

Alien landscape: Armstrong, right, is seen at the Lunar Module Eagle on the historic first extravehicular activity (EVA) on the lunar surface; the photo was taken by Buzz Aldrin

Up up and away: On July 16, 1969, the American flag heralded the flight of Apollo 11, the first Lunar landing mission, lifting off with Armstrong and crew inside

Armstrong's modesty and self-effacing manner never faded.

When he appeared in Dayton in 2003 to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight, he bounded onto a stage before 10,000 people packed into a baseball stadium. But he spoke for only a few seconds, did not mention the moon, and quickly ducked out of the spotlight.

He later joined former astronaut and Sen. John Glenn to lay wreaths on the graves of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Glenn introduced Armstrong and noted it was 34 years to the day that Armstrong had walked on the moon.

'Thank you, John. Thirty-four years?' Armstrong quipped, as if he hadn't given it a thought.

At another joint appearance, the two embraced and Glenn commented: 'To this day, he's the one person on Earth, I'm truly, truly envious of.'

Armstrong's moonwalk capped a series of accomplishments that included piloting the X-15 rocket plane and making the first space docking during the Gemini 8 mission, which included a successful emergency splashdown.

In the years afterward, Armstrong retreated to the quiet of the classroom and his southwest Ohio farm. Aldrin said in his book 'Men from Earth' that Armstrong was one of the quietest, most private men he had ever met.

In the Australian interview, Armstrong acknowledged that 'now and then I miss the excitement about being in the cockpit of an airplane and doing new things.'

The incredible journey: On July 16, 1969, with Neil Armstrong waving in front, the space crew heads for the van that will take them to the rocket for launch to the moon at Kennedy Space Center

Thumbs up: From another angle, Armstrong is seen giving a thumbs up as he and the crew walk to board the shuttle

Trinity: The crew of Apollo 11, pictured in 1969, from left are Neil Armstrong, Mission Commander, Michael Collins, Lt. Col. USAF, and Buzz Aldrin, USAF Lunar Module pilot

Space pioneer: Neil Armstrong poses for a NASA portrait ahead of the historic 1969 Apollo 11 mission

At the time of the flight's 40th anniversary, Armstrong again was low-key, telling a gathering that the space race was 'the ultimate peaceful competition: USA versus U.S.S.R. It did allow both sides to take the high road with the objectives of science and learning and exploration.'

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