Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Neil Armstrong: Flag at Half-Staff

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For the past three days, I've been trying to collect and articulate my thoughts about the passing of Neil Armstrong, but it just seems overwhelming.

In many ways, there is far too much to say, far too many things to list about this amazing explorer. In another way, there is nothing to say. Neil, as an Earthling, was known by all of humanity, regardless of borders; no writer need memorialize his accomplishments in the same way we craft other obituaries.

American flag at half staff for Neil Armstrong

My cousin has an 11-year-old son. Just out of curiosity, I asked him, "Do you know who Neil Armstrong is?" The response was immediate: "Astronaut guy!" And while he didn't know Neil's test pilot and Gemini mission details, the basics were clearly universal. Moonwalker.

Nice. But, not enough. Will upcoming generations care about the moon the way we did, those of us who watched Apollo missions with our own eyes?

The moon has a long, beautiful legacy of mystery... thousands of years' worth, in fact. Neil was the man who cleared everything up for the human species, after centuries of observation, speculation, deduction and downright wild guesses.

Greek Philosopher Anaxagoras
"Everything has a natural explanation.
The moon is not a god, but a great rock, and
the sun a hot rock." – Anaxagoras, 433 BC

Anaxagoras was right, but Neil was the one who proved it. Would they step onto the surface and sink up to their waists in moon dust? Would the space suits hold up? No one knew. Would they crash? Would they be able to return?

Richard Nixon famously had two speeches at the ready, one in case Neil landed safely, and one in case of disaster, whereby he and Buzz might be marooned on our pearly satellite.

Astronauts of the early era were the "Right Stuff" test pilot crowd, the swaggering risk-takers who were courageous (cough*cough*CRAZY*cough) enough to head into the unknown. Neil was first because he deserved to be first.

Neil Armstrong's Hometown Newspaper
Armstrong's Hometown Newspaper in Ohio

Sadly, he is the fourth moonwalker to leave us. There are eight left, and the youngest of them is 76 years old. We may not see press ripples like this one until the last is gone, but I'm sure not looking forward to the dominoes falling.

Sorry to be so sad today, and I thank all the readers here and followers on Facebook and Twitter who have shared stories and commiserated with this great loss for our entire planet.

3 comments:

Suzanne said...

I was truly and deeply saddened upon learning of his death. It is almost impossible to memorialize him but probably unnecessary because the way he lived his life, his career, his talent and his character speaks for itself.

They did indeed make a great choice for the first man to step on the moon. The most amazing thing to me is how he was able to transition his life away from the glare and celebrity. His moonwalk was just one part of his rich and interesting life.

Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts were a breed apart. They were the first... the pioneers. It was totally awesome to be able to be witness their successes and failures.`

Godspeed Neil Armstrong.

Mrs. L said...

All I keep thinking is that cartoon on Facebook with the moon saying "why you no come back and visit". And I keep thinking that Neil is finally going back and visiting. Sigh.

PillowNaut said...

Beautifully said, Suzanne... and so, so right in every way. Neil was truly someone everyone could look up to for all those reasons. He could have "used" his position and fame in so many ways, but was above it all.

And L, it would not surprise me in the least that if there is another American mission to the moon, it will be carrying part of his ashes, or a piece of his Apollo space suit back to leave on the lunar surface!