It was a pleasant summer evening in July. The date was 21 July and the year read 1969. The clock had run past 4 (Eastern Daylight Time) and the people on Earth were glued to their television sets, watching with enthusiasm, the black-and-white telecast of humans landing on Moon.
For those unfortunate ones, who couldn’t watch the history being made, live, the BBC was broadcasting an on-air commentary: “If you have just tuned into the special bulletin, the Washington has confirmed that, today, the 21st of July, 1969, the United States of America has successfully landed man on Moon.”
The event was so big that, The New York Times, for the first time, used a 96-point headline – “Men Walk On Moon”. News channels around the world were relaying the same video footage. There was excitement all over. Happiness rocked the air. The festival of humanity had begun.
Three astronauts – Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins had landed on Moon. NASA’s Apollo-11 mission had been successful and the long cherished American dream achieved!!
The Mission Commander of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong, was now the new face of heroism. As NASA reported, “Not only did he dare to set the first foot on the alien soil, but also maneuvered the ship past an area littered with boulders”. Armstrong had managed to land the shuttle on time, with about 30 seconds of fuel left.
As the Eagle touched the powdery surface of moon, Armstrong radioed his historic words, which are still the most melodious combination of alphabets to any space partisan, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed“ . The mission control erupted in celebration.
“Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot”, replied the ground controller Charles Duke.
Neil Alden Armstrong, then a 38-year-old navy pilot, the first human to step on, and then walk on another celestial body, expired on 25th of this month due to complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
According to NASA, Armstrong had undergone a heart bypass operation on 7th of August, just two days after his 82nd birthday. It is said that his recovery was going well and the death came as a surprise to the family members.
Armstrong’s crew member, Michael Collins, remembered his flight commander deeply, and said, “He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.”
The world mourned the death of the original moonwalker. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, was quoted as saying, “Neil was among the greatest of American heroes. And when Neil stepped on the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”
Twitter is flooded with hashtags, grieving the loss humanity suffered with the death of Mr Armstrong. Most of them are his famous quotes and sayings, some being:
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
“It (the moon) is an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”
Armstrong, throughout his life, was a decent and self-involved guy. He never allowed himself to be caught in the celebrity and glamour of the space program; always a distant visitor to the public gatherings and media coverage. The historian Douglas Brinkley, who interviewed Neil for NASA’s oral history, described him as “Our nation’s most bashful Galahad”.
The family of Armstrong paid tribute to the legend and addressed all his lovers by saying, “And the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed for the last time.” RIP the pioneer of human space odyssey, RIP Neil Armstrong.