Monday, August 27, 2012

A giant leep for mankind

SreeNair | 11:35 PM | | |

             The legendary US astronaut described himself as a "white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer."-the first human to set foot on the moon- Neil Armstrong, has died following complications from a cardiovascular surgery. Armstrong underwent cardiac bypass surgery earlier this month in Cincinnati, for  blockages in his coronary .He had celebrated his birthday on Aug 5.

                 Giving accolades to Armstrong as a "reluctant American hero" his family said :"We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away.Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend."

This was the most daring and “a tender moment” of the 20th century’s scientific expeditions where “he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.

Unlike other hard-partying matinee idols -astronauts of the time-Armstrong was "a spiritual neuter." He did not revel in his accomplishment. He believed that a man should be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work . Like an avadhootha he said " We're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream." .He remained largely retreated from the limelight to the tranquility of his 19th-century farmhouse. He raised cattle and corn and enjoyed his grandchildren ,shying away from the press-men.

As commander of the Apollo 11 mission Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the rock-strewn plain near the south-western shore of the Sea of Tranquility with his fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin following, on July 20, 1969. Apollo 11 took four days to complete the nearly 250,000-mile (400,000 kms) journey. The moonwalk in the fine and powdery surface where lunar gravity is one sixth that of Earth’s, lasted two hours and 19 minutes-collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs while, Michael Collins, piloted the command ship in the orbit about 60 miles above. During two and a quarter hours on the surface, the two astronauts collected almost 48lb [21.75kg] of rock and soil samples and planted the US flag.

The Soviet-American space war that began on Oct. 4, 1957, with the launch of the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 culminated in the Apollo 11 mission. In the turbulent 60’s ,both domestically and internationally, President John F. Kennedy had committed the nation “to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.” True to his words it was accomplished with more than five months to spare.

Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, in the small town of Wapakoneta, on a farm in Ohio. His father was a state auditor and they moved every few years to a new Ohio town while Neil was growing up.He took his first airplane ride at age 6 and took a passion with aviation . He was licensed to fly at 16, before he got his driver's license.

                   He finished high school at Wapakoneta. He went to Purdue University as an engineering student on a Navy scholarship. His college years were interrupted by the Korean War, in which Mr. Armstrong was a Navy fighter pilot who flew 78 combat missions, He took his master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. Soon after his graduation, He married Janet , a student in home economics from Evanston whom he met earlier , in January 1956.The newlyweds moved to California, where Mr. Armstrong had been hired as an experimental test pilot for the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the forerunner of the NASA. They had two sons, Eric and Mark, who survive. A daughter, Karen, died of an inoperable brain tumor in 1962. The couple were divorced in 1994. In 1999, Mr. Armstrong married Carol Knight, a widow 15 years his junior. They lived in Indian Hill, a suburb of Cincinnati.

A veteran of the Korean War, he joined the Nasa astronaut corps in 1962. and his first space flight was as command pilot of the Gemini 8 mission in 1966. Apollo 11 was Armstrong's last trip to space, and he left NASA in 1971 to become a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He kept a low profile after his astronaut years and remained heavily indoor.

His family called him “a reluctant hero who always believed he was just doing his job.”Aldrin said he and Armstrong were not prone to free exchanges of sentiment.

              Armstrong came out from the hermitage and waded into the public eye in 2010, voicing sharp disagreement with President Obama for cancelling NASA’s programme taking up moon sojourn.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits,” his family said in the statement.

President Obama, in a statement from the White House, said, “Neil was among the greatest of American heroes.”

Amstrong believed that the important achievement of Apollo was a demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited.

The moonwalk ended several myths about the moon worship and also raised several eyebrows on its legitimacy.

"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," the family said.


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