Editorial: Neil Armstrong - a star for the ages
Quick, name a contemporary astronaut.
OK, name a notable astronaut from the last 20 years.
Can’t? My, how things have changed.
Once upon a time, before technology made space flight seem routine - which it never was, by the way - before Uncle Sam all but dropped out of the business, astronauts were heroes and household names. And none was bigger than Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon as the commander of Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969.
Armstrong died last week at age 82, but not before guaranteeing himself a place in the history books alongside the greatest explorers who ever lived, as well as one of the few to transcend this planet. It was on the moon, as millions witnessed it on televisions around the globe, that he uttered the immortal words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It was not hyperbole.
Indeed, it was more than just an otherworldly stroll. It was a triumph of science and personal courage and daring. It gave the United States bragging rights in its ongoing cold war/space race with the Soviet Union, becoming the benchmark — the achievement against which all others would be measured — for a nation that because of it came to believe nothing was beyond its reach if we just put our minds to it. Has there been a moment since that America felt quite so good about itself?
For decades, Armstrong, an intensely private man and reluctant celebrity, felt guilty about the attention he received, insisting that thousands of others made his feat possible. He was right about that, and still all too humble.
This nation continues to have a lot of the right stuff, its inventiveness still without peer, but it often seems as if our sense of wonder is restricted to the phones/gadgets in front of us rather than the worlds beyond. With any luck, we haven’t seen our last Neil Armstrong.
Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.