The man who epitomised what is arguably the greatest achievement in human history so far has died at the age of 82 after complications following heart surgery.
Neil Armstrong was the natural selection for commander of the Apollo 11 mission for many reasons. A consummate pilot, he saved the lives of himself and his co-pilot when Gemini 8 went spinning out of control. During a test flight of the ‘flying bedstead’ – a test rig designed to simulate the lunar lander – Armstrong ejected when a malfunction caused the rig to explode, amazing everyone with his reaction times. And, of course, he was a civilian.
There are a few memorable moments in the moon landing. One of my favourites is when flying over the Sea of Tranquillity with 20 seconds of fuel remaining, we hear the famous remark “Any time now would be real good for a landing!”
But my favourite story is one that the second man to set foot on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, used to tell on the dinner circuit :
“Neil was a young lad playing on the porch of his parents’ home in Ohio when he heard his neighbours arguing.
“Mrs Gorsky screamed at her husband ‘Oral sex! Oral sex you want? You’ll get oral sex from me the day that kid next door walks on the moon!
“Listen carefully to what Neil says as he steps onto the lunar surface. Never mind one small step, he mutters as he steps off the pad ‘Good luck Mr Gorsky!’ “
I’ve no idea if it’s true, but it’s just human enough to be…
Someone once asked Armstrong why? He replied “I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It’s by the nature of his deep inner soul – we’re required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.”
Oh – and anyone who still thinks that it was all fake and never really happened must have moon rocks in his head!