Armstrong along with Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins effectively ended the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union in July 1969 thanks to their efforts. Their manned Apollo 11 lunar mission captivated the world and for a brief moment brought everyone together. Many of us weren’t alive then or old enough to remember that moment but when looking at it, one can’t help but feel envious to not have experienced the excitement over watching that grainy black and white TV footage of Armstrong hopping onto the lunar surface.
To this day, his eloquent proclamation “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” still resonates and gives all of us pause at the ingenuity and determination of humanity. That risky landing still serves as a reminder of how we can do almost anything if we put our mind to it. While we haven’t been back to the moon since the 1970s, the legacy left by Armstrong and the other Apollo astronauts serves a reminder of where we’ve been and how much further we have to venture into the final frontier.
As space buffs know, the Apollo 11 was an incredibly dangerous and complex mission. Read A Man On The Moon by Andrew Chaikin or watch the wonderful HBO mini-series From The Earth To The Moon to learn more about the herculean work it took to carry out the lunar landing. In fact, not many know that shortly before the historic mission, Armstrong nearly lost his life during training maneuvers. He was piloting a prototype of the Eagle lander. During a test, the lander malfunctioned and Armstrong was able to jettison away at the last second before it crashed. His cool nerves and fast reaction illustrate that NASA picked the right man to be the commander of the Apollo 11.
Neil Armstrong was a humble man who largely avoided the public eye especially in his later years. Instead he let his accomplishment speak for itself. Like his footprints on the moon, what he did will endure for ages.