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The reluctant hero

27 August 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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He took a giant leap for mankind when he set foot on the moon’s surface. Forty three years after Neil Armstrong awed the world by walking on the moon, the famous astronaut has passed away.

Armstrong died at the age of 82 on Saturday, as a result of complications from a heart by-pass surgery he has undergone earlier this month.

After Armstrong, 38 at that time, made the famous voyage to the moon in Apollo 11, he was instantly catapulted him to celebrity status. But for a man whose name will forever be etched in the chronicles of history and whose journey to the moon continues to inspire the human imagination, Armstrong was a tad too modest. He actively avoided the media and dodged public attention. In one interview when he was asked how he felt knowing that his footsteps on the moon were probably going to remain there forever, his self-effacing answer was: “I kind of hope that somebody goes up there one of these days and cleans them up.” His family, in a statement released after his death, called him a “reluctant American hero”.



Armstrong was often bewildered at the media hype and obsession with space exploration. But this certainly was not because the former astronaut was not passionate about his job. In fact, it was the life-long passion for flying that ultimately landed Armstrong in the US Space Mission. Growing up in Ohio, Armstrong made model planes and even built his own aviation library. Interestingly, he got his licence to fly even before he got his driving license. He subsequently became one of the world’s top test pilots at NASA, and was selected in 1962 for NASA’s space programme. A year after his Apollo 11 mission made history, he left NASA and became a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Armstrong was also approached repeatedly by political groups, but refused a career that would place him directly out him under the public eye.


But even though he evaded the spotlight all his life, he leaves behind a strong legacy. Space enthusiasts and scientists still continue to rave about “Armstrong’s dream”. Today, as Curiosity totters on Mars’ bumpy surface, looking for signs of life, the world waits for a day when man will set step on the red planet. But till then, Armstrong’s feat, as his fellow astronaut Edwin Aldrin aptly said, will continue to be recognised.

Khaleej Times
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