Like many people around the world, I felt rather sad hearing about the death of former US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to have walked on the moon in 1969. Of course I didn’t know him personally, but like many others the pictures of Apollo 11, the landing, the emergence of Armstrong from the lunar module down the steps to the surface of the moon and that iconic statement ‘ That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” are etched upon my memory. This is my brief view of the Neil Armstrong legacy.
Although I watched the event with the rest of my family, I was only seven at the time, so I’ve never been quite sure whether my memories are those of the live event or the grainy recordings that I have seen so many times since that time. Either way I have always been fascinated by space travel and the lengths men and women have gone to, to explore outer space. Although there have been many space adventures since that day there is nothing to compare with Apollo 11 or the fact that although 12 men have walked on the moon Armstrong was the first.
However, as an adult it’s not just the extraordinary feat of landing on the moon that I find so interesting, it is the man himself. There was a perception among many that Armstrong was a recluse because he rarely talked about his time in space but of course he wasn't. After the Apollo 11 mission he became Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. where he was responsible for the coordination and management of overall NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics. He held that post for a year before resigning and becoming Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati for 6 years from 1971.
Although in later years he did become a spokesman for variety of companies, he still tried to live a quiet life largely out of the public eye. Some people suggest he should have talked more and shared what he’d experienced, but he didn’t need to. Buzz Aldrin was always more comfortable in the spotlight to talk about what they had achieved.
My admiration lies in the fact that Armstrong chose to do things his way. He could have enjoyed the adulation and success for the rest of his life, but that wasn’t how he wanted to be defined and he was adamant about choosing his own path. Armstrong was a modest man, and as he once said he just wanted to go back to being Neil Armstrong and this is what he did.
Apart from his knowledge and achievements in space travel Neil Armstrong also left behind some interesting lessons about life
1. Make your own choices about how you want to live your life
2. Don’t let others define you
3. Cherish the things that are most important to you
4. Ignore the criticism of others
5. Stay true to what you believe in
Neil Armstrong considered himself an ordinary man just doing his job. He was actually an extraordinary man who has left a wonderful legacy.
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