Neil Armstrong: Tributes pour in for first man on the moon
Tributes were pouring in for Neil Armstrong, who died Saturday of complications from heart surgery.
became the first person to set foot on the moon, on July 20, 1969, when he said: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."
The grainy black-and-white television images of him taking his first lunar stroll were watched by an estimated 600 million people worldwide — and firmly established him as one of the great heroes of the 20th century.
Armstrong, who had heart surgery in early August, died Saturday in Cincinnati at 82, said NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs. The cause was complications from cardiovascular procedures, his family announced.
PHOTOS: Neil Armstrong | 1930-2012
He was never comfortable with celebrity he saw as an accident of fate, for stepping on the moon ahead of fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. The reticent, self-effacing Armstrong would shun the spotlight for much of the rest of his life.
In a rare public appearance, in 2000, Armstrong cast himself in another light: "I am, and ever will be, a white-sock, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer."
President Obama said in a statement: "Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Neil Armstrong."
"Neil was among the greatest of American heroes -- not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation.
"They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable -- that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.
"Today, Neil's spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown -- including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure -- sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step."
Neil Armstrong’s loved ones said they were “heartbroken” to share the
news that the former astronaut and first person to step foot on the moon
had died Saturday of complications from heart surgery. Armstrong was 82.
“Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend,” the family statement said. “As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of goodwill from people around the world and from all walks of life.
“While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.
“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, 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.”
-- Times staff writers
Photo: President Obama meets with Neil Armstrong at the White House in 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. Credit: Bill Ingalls / NASA