The dates July 20, 1969, and Aug. 6, 2012, are extraordinary dates in the history of NASA and space exploration. The events that made Aug. 6 a date worthy of remembrance might not have been possible without Neil Armstrong’s accomplishment in July 1969.
Early on Aug. 6, NASA celebrated one of the pioneering feats in the history of space exploration when it planted a roving vehicle named Curiosity on Mars’ surface. The vehicle immediately began puttering about, sending high-definition images of the Red Planet back to Earth – history not just for our own country, but all mankind.
I was watching a live stream of the NASA command center in Pasadena, Calif., on the morning Curiosity touched down on Mars, and it was joyous.
I saw images of cheers and hugs in that command center when the mission was deemed a success. At that moment, I was reminded of America’s might, her will to achieve and push boundaries for the good of humanity.
Being reminded of these things wouldn’t be possible without an extraordinary happening in the first place, and herein lies Armstrong’s importance to the world.
July 20, 1969 was, perhaps, the most important date in the history of manned spaceflight – Apollo XI touched down on the surface of the moon that day. Apollo XI had hauled with it a payload that included the first man to eventually walk the moon’s surface: Commander Neil Armstrong.
As Armstrong shuffled his way through the hatch doors of the lunar lander, he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Once on the moon’s surface, he laid down a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. We came in peace for all mankind.”
In 1994, Armstrong, still acting the part of a noble, peaceful and optimistic explorer, said “there are places to go far beyond belief.”
Just 25 days after Curiosity plopped down on Mars, America lost Armstrong, 82, one of the original pioneers of the final frontier, when he died Saturday. A native of Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, from “complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures,” according to a family statement.
“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,” the Armstrong family statement read. “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.”
Armstrong was right – there were still more places to go that were far beyond belief. NASA proved this again when it landed Curiosity on Mars in a delicate maneuver. Indeed, America still had the strength and wherewithal to achieve the unbelievable.
Armstrong was one of the first to prove that the unbelievable was possible in the first place. For every awesome image beamed back to Earth from Mars that we take in, we must bear this in mind.