UPDATE: As a boy of 11 years old, I watched much of this in utter awe as many of you did on that Sunday in July, 1969. It is well worth watching again. I get choked up just watching.
America has just lost its most heroic son. I’m sad. It is doubly sad that America’s manned space program is also dead.
This poem, a favorite of pilots worldwide, seems the most appropriate:
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
- Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee, No 412 squadron, RCAF, Killed 11 December 1941
He was born in the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, on Aug. 5, 1930.
On July 20, 1969, half a billion people — a sixth of the world’s population at the time — watched a ghostly black-and-white television image as Armstrong backed down the ladder of the lunar landing ship Eagle, planted his left foot on the moon’s surface, and said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Twenty minutes later his crewmate, Buzz Aldrin, joined him, and the world watched as the men spent the next two hours bounding around in the moon’s light gravity, taking rock samples, setting up experiments, and taking now-iconic photographs.
UPDATE: Andrew Revkin has an interesting backstory on the space race that I think is worth reading here: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/25/the-cold-war-push-behind-neil-armstrongs-one-small-step/