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Neil Armstrong

By Hamsini

While every year has its ups and downs, this year we lost someone who became a symbol for the advancement of science during his time. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon passed away on August 25th of this year. Armstrong went on two trips to space; on the Gemini 8 which was nearly exploded and then on the historic Apollo 11 in July 1969. On Apollo 11, he was accompanied by Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Armstrong who spent over two and a half hours on the lunar surface collected 47 samples of lunar material with Aldrin and carried out various experiments as planned. Their spacewalk was broadcast live and 600 million people were reported to have watched it- This made up one-fifth of the world population at the time. 

Armstrong, after stepping off the lunar module, placed his left boot on the lunar surface and uttered the famous words, “That’s one small step for [a] man---one giant leap for mankind.” which have been echoed all over the world since then. 

Armstrong and his two co-pilots became symbols of America’s win in the Space Race. The Apollo 11 mission in 1969 relieved many pressures of the American Government. The background was filled with the Civil Rights Movement, public dissent against the Vietnam War, the assassinations of various leaders( including the Kennedys and Martin Luther King) and the after effects of the disastrous Bay of Pigs episode. 

The mission to the moon boosted the world’s morale, not only that of America. It would surely have been an awe-inspiring moment on July 20th to realize that man as a single entity had advanced much further than he had before in all of history. 

Jason Jolly, an engineering student from Chennai, when asked about what Armstrong meant to the world said, “Irrespective of whether his mission was part of the space race or a three legged race... It takes a man of courage to strap himself to the back of a Saturn 5 rocket and one heck of a pilot to manually fly the Eagle and manoeuvre it, like he did, to a landing zone which wasn't pre designated and save it from being dashed to bits on rocks with almost zero fuel left with only a tiny triangular window to see out of and a navigation system that makes my television remote seem space age. All this on based on the then unproven technology and pure skill. That's why he serves as an inspiration.” 

Armstrong has been described as a humble, “nerdy” engineer and was proven to be very media-shy as he tried not to step into the spotlight. Two years after his mission to the moon, he quit NASA and took up a lecturer’s job at the University of Cincinnati because of its small aerospace department. After years of keeping out of public view, he stepped into it willingly to criticize the commercialization of space, the takeover of private companies into space exploration and President Barack Obama’s decision which cancelled NASA’s return expedition to the moon. 

Armstrong died due to complications following a bypass surgery which had intended to relieve his blocked coronary arteries. His death was mourned not only in America but even in India. The 1970s became the start of India’s middle class exodus to America in search of better lives and opportunities. Indeed, Armstrong, with his pocket protector and geeky glasses had reflected an image of an engineer who had worked hard to achieve a dream. 

Jason bid farewell in a rather emotional status message on the 26th of August, “Today the world lost a pioneer. Farewell Neil Armstrong. When you landed the Eagle in the Sea of Tranquillity, you took man to the moon. You serve as an inspiration to us all. And today you've taken the most giant leap of all... A leap straight to heaven.

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Basically I write, I read and I dream up fairytales. The rest of the time, I nibble at food, sing songs off tune, and pretend to be a hotshot photographer. I also love the wind in my hair, basking in the sun, a healthy dose of cynicism and coffee on the rocks.


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