From childhood I practically worshipped Neil Armstrong. Yeah, I get that he was part of a team and couldn’t have done what he did without the backing of thousands of other individuals and millions of dollars of tax payer money. But I appreciated the event. Neil Armstrong was synonymous with space travel. The idea that a man placed his boots on the soil of a celestial body other than that on which he was born thrills me. Neil was the right man for the job. He was a near perfect specimen of mankind. He deserved to be first.
Later, however, as I came to realize that Mr. Armstrong is a recluse, despising the lime-light, I realized that it might have been better if Buzz Aldrin had been the first man to walk on the moon. Neil is a celebrity. Neil’s name is known. More people recognize the name Neil Armstrong than recognize the name Buzz Aldrin. (I applaud Toy Story for attempting to change that.) They only do so because he made the first bootprint on lunar soil. But Buzz has the passion for space. If Buzz had been first, he could have run with the First Man image and maybe made the American mindset stick to the image that, yes, we can, should, and will walk on other worlds. Neil could have gone off and hid in his schoolhouse somewhere without any impact on society.
Mr. Armstrong, I’m disappointed in your failure to keep the dream of space travel alive. You had to disappear. You had to become a teacher somewhere. (Or so they tell me.) You let us down. You were privileged to walk in a place that only eleven other men have walked. You blazed a trail for a dozen special guys. The rest of us are stuck here on this mud ball we call earth. You ruined it for us. Why didn’t you continue to sell the dream, carry the torch, lead the charge, and make a way for the rest of us who are mere mortals? You have done a selfish thing.
Thanks. Thanks for nothing.
There. I said it. I said it in a nice safe place where nobody will ever read it, but at least I said it.
Neil did some great things, of which the Apollo 11 EVA was the best known, and in a sense his reward for other work well done. His contributions to the X-15 program, an impressive record on other test vehicles, amazing performance on GT-8, and reflexes in the LLTV crash, along with other Apollo program contributions got him the Apollo 11 spot. As it turned out, he was exactly the right man at the controls on the moments before Eagle touched down.
After Apollo 11, he did a lot of good for NASA and the manned program, mostly out of the limelight. There are also hundreds of aircraft designers and people in today’s programs that owe their start to this man, not only for his inspiration as test pilot and astronaut, but for his ability and patience in teaching and create effective academic programs.
He also used his stature to move and mold US space policy on several levels over the years, weighing in where he felt he could make a difference and where he felt that leadership (including the current administration) was making choices that harmed the program.
Neil was not a publicity hound, and he left a lot of the razzle-dazzle to others, which ought not diminish his own nearly superhuman accomplishments over the years. Thank him for the programs he was part of, and some of what has happened since, it would probably have been less without him. Wink at the Moon he walked on, because it is what his family wants us to do, and because he is there and beyond.
I wanted to be an astronaut but ended up an elementary school teacher. Close enough, LOL. May Neil Armstrong rest in peace and rise in glory and may light perpetual shine upon him.