The first man to walk on the moon astronaut Neil Armstrong has died, aged 82, from complications following heart surgery. More than 500 million people around the world watched as he and fellow astronaut, Edward ‘Buzz’ Aldrin walked on the moon’s surface in July 1969, collecting samples and taking photographs. After calls for a state funeral it seems his family’s wishes for a more private commemoration will prevail.
See a young Neil Armstrong in a 1970 interview with BBC Television discussing the moon landing.
Where were you when Neil Armstrong took that first small step for man, but a great leap for mankind? What were you doing? How did you feel?
I feel suddenly old when I hear the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away at age 82. As the tributes pour in for this brave and talented man, my thoughts return to that day in July ’69 when Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins rocketed to the moon in the Apollo 11. While Collins remained in orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the surface and spent the next two and a half hours exploring. It must have seemed as though it was the longest – and in some ways the shortest – 2.5 hours they had ever lived.
I was 15 years old, attending Norwood High School in Ringwood, Victoria. Our headmaster, a cranky old bugger called Rex Connor, had decided the whole school would gather in the main hall to watch this historic moment on TV. Now for those too young to remember, TVs in the 1960s were small, black and white and super grainy. So the expectation that about 800 students would simultaneously be able to see Armstrong step out of the spacecraft onto the lunar surface on one 15-inch screen was huge, indeed.
As we squirmed and squinted at the screen for an interminable period of time, finally a murmur from those lucky enough to sit in the front row confirmed that history had indeed been made. Armstrong was on the moon, connected to his spacecraft by some strange-looking umbilical cord, and his words had come floating back to earth – “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
I doubt that any of us truly understood the magnitude of the achievement. We rose to our feet and shuffled back to class, wondering what the hell had happened. It is only now, with the distance of time, that I can actually appreciated the bravery of the participants, the vision of NASA and the courage of the American Government to conceive and fund such an awe-inspiring project. And maybe even Rex had shown a modicum of vision by insisting we stop class and gather together to witness history in the making.
What about you? Do you remember what you were up to when Armstrong took that giant step?