Sunday, 26 August 2012

Final step for a reluctant American hero

Neil Armstrong has passed away at the age of 82 yesterday. He'll never be forgotten as the first man to step on the moon during the American-Russian space race back in July 20, 1969, nor will his famous words "A small step for (a) man, a giant leap for mankind."

I remember watching this entire Apollo 11 mission whenever I could as a kid, watching the final landing and moonwalk at my friend Timmy's house because his parents had a colour television, me and the other kids completely enthralled - there was no other news, nothing else to talk about. To say it inspired me is an understatement.

To me all three of them are and always will be heroes - Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, and Michael Collins who never made it to the moon, remaining in orbit in the command module awaiting their return.

I can still visualize the lunar module heading down towards the moon's surface, very fast - for us it looked dangerous. Once they had landed, it was a long time before the walk occurred but we all waited patiently. Seeing that step - more of a jump, really, made us all whoop with joy. Difficult probably to explain how this moment captured the world's attention and imagination, raising everyone's spirits.

I wonder if he had thought we would have gone further by now, as I did. It is well over forty years since that mission, and back then I thought by now we'd have stepped on Mars, too. I know we're all mired in an economic mess, and there are many nasty conflicts around the world, but a manned mission to Mars, especially an international one, would lift our collective spirits. I hope to see it in my day.

In the meantime, whenever I get stuck with my science fiction writing, I have only to stare at the moon, as I did back in 1969, in pure wonder that we have been there. Makes me proud of humanity.

The last words in this blog go to his family, who issued the following statement:

"For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

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