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God speed, Neil Armstrong August 27, 2012

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, Four Last Things, General Catholic, Society.

I was pretty amazed to learn over the weekend that Neil Armstrong had died.  Commander of Apollo 11 and first man to walk on the moon, Armstrong was sort of a strange bird in the astronaut corps in that he was rather quiet and reserved and shunned publicity to a marked degree.  His being the first man to walk on the moon was a quirk of fate, and while he was a very qualified pilot and engineer he did not possess any qualities over and above other astronauts that qualified him to be first.  Others like Pete Conrad, Jim Lovell, and especially Tom Stafford might have been even more qualified.  But Neil Armstrong benefited from Deke Slayton’s crew assignment rotation system and the Apollo 1 fire to wind up commander of Apollo 11.

Armstrong had a long and storied career prior to his famous moon walk.  He was a Navy fighter pilot during the Korean War, and then joined the then-NACA (National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics) flight test program at Edwards AFB, California.  He flew the X-15 a few times, then moved on to the Air Force manned space program before moving to NASA with the second group of astronauts selected in 1962.  There were a number of adventures in the X-15, including a flight where he flew the longest X-15 mission ever after blowing his re-entry from space and skipping off the upper reaches of the atmosphere, overflying Edwards by 80 miles and winding up over the Rose Bowl in LA before he managed to get the ship turned around and pointed at Edwards, barely making a landing.

Being a huge fan of the early space program and a student of the lives of many of the astronauts in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, Armstrong was always something of an enigma.  He did not possess a larger than life personality like some of the astronauts, nor did he carefully craft a public image like Cernan and others.  As I said, he shunned the spotlight and did his best to keep a low profile, even going so far as to stop signing autographs when he figured out people were selling them for money.

He died of complications from atherosclerosis, blocked coronary arteries.  He was 82.

Below is a video on the Gemini 8 mission, in which Armstrong and Dave Scott completed the first space docking ever made. Unfortunately, a thruster on their Gemini spacecraft got stuck in the open (firing) position, forcing them to make an early abort and emergency landing.  He and Scott bobbed in 8-10 foot swells for hours before being picked up.  Both got very sick (especially Scott).  Neil Armstrong flew in space twice, on Gemini 8 and Apollo 11 (none of his X-15 flights qualified for astronaut wings).

Armstrong was not religious.  He described himself as a “deist.”  Resquiat in pacem.


1. Frank - August 28, 2012

I think his “one small step for man” was larger than he ever realized. He seemed to turn very introspective after the moon landing. Perhaps it was the experience of the Infinite in outer space that impacted him so deeply. He never wanted to be a celebrity but remained humble. He was a true hero to all of us who watched that momentous walk.

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