I am deeply saddened by the death this weekend of Neil Armstrong. There were three things that keep running through my mind as I watched all of the old NASA and moon landing footage Saturday and Sunday.
First, I'm disappointed that I will never get to meet him. I've met and interviewed Frank Borman and Gene Cernan--but for space nuts like me, Neil Armstrong is the "Holy Grail" of Apollo astronauts--as much for his lack of public appearances over the years (more on that later) as for the fact that he is "The First"--and therefore ranks Number One in the echelon of heroes.
Secondly, Armstrong passes away without the accolades he deserves. There were reasons Deke Slayton choose Neil to command Apollo 11 and why he was tabbed to be first to step off the LEM: He wasn't active military at the time--and he wasn't going to be a media hog afterwards. He did the tickertape parades and the White House visits and the TV shows that were required after returning to Earth--and then he went home. There was a reporter on one of the TV networks Saturday afternoon saying that he went to talk to Armstrong on the 30th anniversary date of the moon landing and found him out sealcoating his driveway. Meanwhile, Buzz Aldrin is in every History Channel and Nat Geo show about "NASA's Unreported UFO Encounters" and "Moon Landing Hoax".
Still, I don't understand why every school district in America doesn't have a Neil Armstrong Elementary School. I realize Webster Stanley, Carl Traeger and Perry Tipler did some nice things for Oshkosh--but c'mon, how many of them WALKED ON THE MOON??? And what could inspire a child to learn more than walking past a picture of Neil and Buzz saluting the flag on the lunar surface every day?
And finally, Neil Armstrong's death come as America has not gone any farther in manned space exploration than he did 43-years ago. In fact, we have greatly regressed from that point--not even having a vehicle to take men into ow-Earth orbit. NASA is now completely dependent on Russia to get anybody to the International Space Station. One of the few public comments from Armstrong in recent years was his letter of disapproval with President Obama eliminating funding for the Aries program--that was going to take man back to the Moon as preparation for manned exploration of Mars.
Yes, we sent probes out of the solar system, telescopes in space and rovers on Mars since July 20th, 1969--but there is something about manned exploration that captures humanity's natural curiosity and desire to know more about our surroundings than sending machines to do the work for us. Do you remember where you were on September 14th, 1959? That's the date that the Russian probe Luna 2 hit the Moon's surface. Not so special was it?
I know liberals hate the idea of American Exceptionalism--but there is a reason that only Americans have ever set foot on the moon. Because we are the only country prosperous enough, strong enough, bold enough and dedicated enough to have done it. And Armstrong's death sheds new light on how we have moved away from that greatness. We are now a society that considers putting as many people in Government programs as possible as a mark of great achievement. I'd hate to think that this generation's most historic moment will be free birth control for everyone (That's one small pill for a woman.....)
So farewell to a brave and humble man--Neil Armstrong. The Ultimate American Hero.