Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died yesterday at the age of 82. I remember watching the lunar landing and the first moon walk in July 1969 when I was a student at the University of Chicago. It was the culmination of many long NASA space TV sessions that began for me as a teen with the Mercury program that launched Alan Shepard into space in the first sub-orbital flight, in a race with the Russians to be the first on the moon. Those were the days. Getting up early in the morning to watch the Redstone rockets launch the first astronauts, the coundowns, the agonizing holds at T-1 second, and finally the "lift off", as we learned - not "blast off" as the science fiction books had it - with the mighty rockets roaring into space with their manned payloads, just in time to rush out the door and catch the bus to school. (Yes, I was bussed to Jewish day schools in the South before busing was busing.)
Now we have no more manned space program, but we have excelled at sending probes to the most distant planets and robotic explorers to Mars. In just 400 years we have progressed from Galileo's first glimpse of the distant heavens using a telescope so primitive that you wouldn't give it to a child today to actually visiting these far, far away places. Who knows what the next 400 years might bring, if the savages of the world and their sympathizers and enablers don't ruin it for everyone.
According to the press Armstrong died of complications from cardiac procedures. Does that mean a medical mistake? Sure hope not.
In tribute, here is the video that I remember watching so well from his first steps on the moon.