Rest in peace, Neil Armstrong.

I met Neil Armstrong once, at a dinner to honor Jimmy Doohan in the early 2000s.

He was not much taller than me, but he was a giant of a man. He was as kind as he was intimidating. 

I don’t remember what I said to him, or what he said to me, because all I could think the entire time was “This man has walked on the fucking moon.”

Rest in peace, Neil. Because of your bravery and your courage, an entire species will forever look into the night sky and see not a mystery, but a destination.

22 thoughts on “Rest in peace, Neil Armstrong.”

  1. My throat is tight right now. I’ve been reading tributes to him all evening but you are the first to move me to tears. I was in Germany, my father stationed in Stuttgart, when he landed on the moon. Even as a young child I understood the importance of his journey. Thanks for your words…

  2. I read that as them thanking Wil for finding the words to express what Armstrong meant, even if they couldn’t necessarily find the way to express it themselves.

  3. You said a mouthful, Wil. I remember feeling much the same way when I met Dr. Sally Ride, who we also lost not long ago.
    How many more of our space heroes must die before we as a species get off our collective asses and start making some NEW space heroes?

  4. I read this last night and went to go look at the moon…
    It was after 11:00 PM when I opened the sliding glass door and as I stepped onto the aggregate concrete patio, I felt the cold wind hit my face. The Maple tree’s leaves responded in kind, wrestling and filtering the breeze as the bulk of it swayed toward the house. I looked up to the nearly-starless sky and immediately caught sight of the moon’s glow as it was slowly tracking across the Vallejo sky through an almost appropriate veil of a single cloud twice its’ size which had obstructed its’ details. It was the only cloud in the sky and in my eye, it appeared as a death shroud for a moment in time 43 years ago.
    I was only three years old when Neil Armstrong placed the left boot of his bulky white NASA space suit onto the surface of the moon and biffed the line he had prepared (“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”), and while I don’t remember the specific moment, I do remember the excitement and the happiness it brought to our home. Being raised in Navy family by an officer who served aboard a carrier, it was a day that will, forever, be burned into my memory.
    Ever since, I’ve regarded our satellite in wonder and would strain my young eyes trying to see the equipment, which we had left up there. That moment crystallized the resolve for so many more astronauts, scientists and forward thinking men and women who would find themselves working for NASA and changed how we view our small collection of rocks in orbit around the Sun.
    The skin on my face and ears felt the bite of the chilly night air as the breeze kicked the leaves in the Maple tree once again. I watched that solitary cloud slowly drift to the East and dissolve into nothing as it revealed the sharp contrasting features of the craters and rays on its’ Southern hemisphere; the Earth’s shadow appropriately cast across half its’ face in mourning on this, the day the moon lost one of it’s population.
    “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small”
    Neil Armstrong:
    August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012
    May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
    [NASA image of inside the Lunar Module as it rests on the lunar surface after completion of his historic moonwalk]

  5. Neil Armstrong had an amazing quote that I read yesterday in his NPR obit from a February 2000 appearance, apparently he didn’t do a lot of public appearances: “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer, and I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
    He was definitely one of the great American heroes.

  6. This Friday, August 31 the Moon itself will be BLUE to honor the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first to walk on the shores of the Sea of Tranquility.
    Blue Moon,
    You saw me standing alone,
    Without a dream in my heart,
    Without a love of my own.
    Rest in Peace, Neil.

  7. Well said, Wil. I was 4 months old when Neil made his monumental lunar walk, but I grew up idolizing him and his compatriots Ed “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins. I wish I still had the Saturn rocket painting that adorned my wall as a child – it was painted by a forgotten family friend and probably sold in a garage sale decades ago but I still remember every detail of it to this day.
    My dad had one of those flimsy plastic (acetate maybe?) 45rpm records of Neil’s first step that was included with Time or Life magazine, I forget which. I need to look through his stuff to see if we still have it.
    RIP Neil Armstrong, you inspired more than one generation!

  8. When you find yourself searching for meaning in life, Neil’s accomplishments should tickle the contentment part of your brain. It feels good to be a part of a people who continue to reach out into space to grasp for answers about who we are right here.
    Sometimes you have to go out to come in.

  9. First of all, anyone that can start off with “I met Neil Armstrong once” is a douche. I say that purely out of intense jealousy!
    But in all seriousness, I agree with all the sentiments said here and elsewhere in the last couple of days. Neil Armstrong was, is and always will be an inspiration to the entire human race.

  10. I was 17 when he walked on the moon. I had come of age dreaming of space and the hopes of expanding our world to include worlds yet unknown.
    Since that day I have given up the thought that Earthlings will ever set foot on another body again. Not because we can’t but because we lack the desire. Perhaps one day The Chinese will plant their flag too but I don’t get the sense that this is the sort of national goal it was for the US during the 60s.
    I think Mr. Armstrong was an exceedingly lucky man, born at the exact moment and falling into the exact path that lead him to the moon and he will not be followed by successive generations. THere couldn’t have been a better choice to represent us in this effort.

  11. Not to be a bigger douche but when I worked at NASA I managed to attend a dinner where he was at. I spoke with him for maybe 2 minutes. He struck me as shy for a man of his position and I was probably a babbling fanboi. A group of us had our picture taken with him – I am completely blocked out by the guy in front of me. Story of my life

  12. In 2003, I was on a flight back from Sydney to LA and in the front of my section was Charlie Duke, Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 16. Now, I’m enough of a space nerd that I recognized him immediately — even as we were boarding — and knew that pretty much no one else was likely to recognize him.
    Yet I spent the first half of the flight figuring out how I might be able to arrange to say hello. It was worse than the junior high dance and Charlie Duke was as inaccessible as Katie Littlehale. Well, when about 7 hours into the flight, I popped out of the lav to find Charlie Duke waiting for it all I could manage to mumble was “General Duke” because, yes, this guy walked on the fucking moon. I’m plenty accomplished in my own field, but this guy — waiting for the loo — made my ankles turn to jelly. I couldn’t put three intelligent words in a sentence.

  13. Back when Niel made his one smal step of humanity, my parents lived in Kansas City, as I call it the state of Misery. I was only 9 years old at the time, and on my first birthday JFK made a promiss that this would happen with in a decade. Maybe that is why I have been so interested in space. My brother who is ten months younger than me works in the Aerospace industry doing robotic Electrical Engineering at the Denver Lockheed Martian planet. Watching the Apollo 11 coverage on the news on the new 25 color TV is a great memory. If our colonizing the Moon dreams by 2019 had not been trashed so to just become visitors to land on Mars, is a nice desire, it just seemed as if it is tasking a giant leap to far to fast of a goal to be achieved. And from what I know of the plans Lockheed Martain had for the Moon then Mars and then the Asteroids and beyond, the next orbital planet colony every 10 years or so by the beginning of the 22nd Century we may be ready to venture beyond our Sol Solar system and head for the stars.

    Currently money in the bank has removed Mars as a first goal and that makes the Moon again become our next goal.

    Over all this Mars diversion has delayed a Moon base by 5 to 10 years, as we are forced to race China to start colonizing the Moon.

    Will shall we change Shatner’s famous line from Space the final Frontier into Space our Next Frontier.

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