When I was a little kid, I was fascinated with astronauts and outer space. I even toyed with the idea of becoming an astronaut one day, until I realized they ate only freeze-dried food and that didn’t sound too appealing. I was also convinced that by the time I reached the age I am now, we would all be living in outer space and flying around in cars that folded up into a briefcase just like George Jetson. I also thought that for vacations, families would travel to the moon instead of Florida for a week of fun off from work. Apparently, I was wrong.
Sadly, this past weekend America lost one of its’ greatest space pioneers, with the passing of Neil Armstrong. The first man to walk on the moon has been an American icon and hero since July 20, 1969 when he uttered the immortal words, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” However, I never really knew much more about him until just last week.
One rainy day on vacation, my family and I went to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola and while there visited the Naval Aviators Hall of Fame, of which Armstrong was inducted in 1979. It was there that I learned he had served as a pilot for the U. S. Navy during the Korean War, a test pilot for NASA, an engineer and later a professor. After only learning about his life a few days beforehand, it was almost odd when I first read about his death (thanks to a friend’s status update on Facebook) just a few days later. In fact I have learned more in the last three days about his life than I ever learned in school.
Many have described Armstrong as a reluctant hero, someone who stayed out of the spotlight to the point of almost being reclusive. Although he is credited with the success of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the earlier Gemini 8 mission, several articles stated that he never wanted to be singled out from the group of men he worked with; that he considered himself part of a team and was just doing his job. I think we all could learn something from his humbleness. Oftentimes, we are so quick to point out why we are better than someone else or what we have done that is so great, that we just come off as arrogant. It is something we see every day in the newspaper world, people always want to tell us why they should be recognized and others shouldn’t. I have even seen someone nominate themselves for an award and not try to hide the fact that they were doing so. While I think there is nothing wrong with being proud of any achievement you make, there comes a point when your attitude can overshadow your accomplishment.
It would have been easy for Armstrong to exploit his success, but he chose to go a different route. So let’s face it, if the first person to ever set foot on the moon, who was part of a defining moment in not only American history, but that of the world, can manage to not be boastful, then maybe we all can too.
Although he never grew accustomed to the spotlight, Neil Armstrong will forever be remembered as one of the greatest legends of all time and someone whose life we could all admire. Perhaps it is most fitting to end with a quote I read in reference to his death, “One small step for man, one giant loss for mankind.”