Neil Armstrong, ten years without the astronaut who refused to be a hero

Neil Armstrong’s name evokes the first human footprint on the Moon and one of the most famous phrases in history. A feat that made him an icon of the 20th century and an American hero, honors that he considered unjustified and from which he preferred to flee.

On August 25, 2012 and due to complications from coronary bypass surgery died in Cincinnati (USA), at the age of 82, the most famous astronaut in the world, whose real passion since he was a child was aviation, in fact, he achieved pilot certification at the age of 16, before he got his driver’s license.

armstrong he didn’t feel comfortable with fame that was associated with being, in July 1969, the first person to step on the Moon. She was 38 years old and two years later she retired from NASA to teach rocket science at the University of Cincinnati and moved to a farm.

Reluctant to talk to the press, you can trace who he was and how he lived through that historical moment through the few interviews he gave, the memories of his NASA colleagues, his sons, Erick and Mark, and his biographer James R. Hansen.

One of the most humane guys I’ve ever met.”, highlighted James Lovell, commander of Apollo 13 -the one from “Houston, we have had a problem”-. “He saw himself as the result of the work of a great team of people,” in the words of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.

Also, He was “modest and reserved” he could be outgoing at times, but “he didn’t always speak his mind.” “Trying to bring his true character to the surface is a challenge,” according to his biographer and author of “The First Man.”

Armstrong said, in a 2005 interview, that it wasn’t that he wasn’t ready for fame, that he considered it “a blessing” and “a burden,” he just “didn’t deserve it.” According to his account, he was not chosen to be the first. “I only went to command that flight and the circumstances put me in that specific role.”

NASA chose the team rotations that would carry out the missions, but the specific content depended on the achievements of the previous ones, and he had one that would mark anyone for life.

But what really marked Armstrong’s was the loss of her two-year-old daughter, Karen, to cancer, in 1962.”I thought that the best thing for me in that situation was to continue with my work.” That year he was selected for NASA’s astronaut corps, of which he was then the only civilian.

It had all started long before. Born in 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, he first flew with his father at the age of five. He began studying aeronautical engineering at Purdue University, a degree he completed after the Korean War, where he served as a pilot and was decorated.

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Those missions, his work as a test pilot, the accident he suffered in a ground test of the lunar lander, from which he ejected moments before it crashed -”I bit my tongue but that was the only real damagel”- or the Gemini 8 space mission (1966) on the verge of ending his life, forged his temperance.

When descending on the Moon, together with Buzz Aldrin, and verifying that the programmed place “it was not the place to make a first landing” did not hesitate to take the manual control to look for another. When they landed there were only a few seconds of fuel left before aborting the mission.

The arrival of the Eagle on the Moon is estimated to have been followed on television by some 600 million people, who heard live one of the most famous phrases in history: “One small step for man; a great leap for humanity”.

The astronaut said in his first press conference with Aldrin and Michael Collins, after the return of Apollo 11, that “it was neither improvised nor planned”, but that “the idea evolved during the flight”.

Years later he would explain: “it was just a small step, but then I remembered the 400,000 people who gave me the opportunity to take that step and I thought: it is going to be something big for all of them and for many others who were not even involved in it. the project”.

that step was “a special and memorable momentbut only for a moment because there was work to do, we were not there to meditate”.

During the two and a half hour walk, it is speculated that he deposited a memory of his daughter. “We don’t know if he left anything of Karen on the Moon, it’s something he kept private, but it’s possible.”, according to his son Mike.

Around the Earth embarked the reserved Armstrong on a tour of 45 countries. Two years later he would announce his retirement to teach space engineering, worked in several companies, collaborated with NASA at specific times and rejected offers to enter politics.

Armstrong hoped that this adventure would serve to inspire young people, “not only for what he did, but for the entire country that made it possible,” according to Apollo program astronaut Gene Cernan, the last, until now, to step foot on the planet. Moon.

A man who did not want to be a hero, although in the words of astronaut Lovell, remembering him after his death: “You cannot find a more committed and passionate hero to follow in his footsteps.”

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