Let’s Send Neil Back To The Moon

by Tammy Plotner on August 29, 2012

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As a native-born and life-long resident of Ohio, I have lived in the shadow of Neil Armstrong all my life. I visit Wapokenta every few years for two simple reasons – I love the Armstrong Museum and I feel a need to pass that heritage on to children, grandchildren and visiting friends. Of course, I was crushed when I read of his death. I would have given anything to have had Armstrong’s autograph on my original Apollo landing newspapers, or even just to have seen the man. He was a humble hero… and this is the quality that I loved most about him. However, Neil Armstrong and his quiet ways didn’t just impact my life. He touched us all.

“Early on Sunday morning here in Australia I got the news I never wanted to hear.” says Dave Reneke of Australia. “I was in the middle of a radio interview on a local station when they cut in with the news that Neil Armstrong had passed away. “What?? What are you telling me…Neil’s dead!!” I cut the interview short because I simply couldn’t go on.

Neil Armstrong wasn’t just an American hero; he belonged to the entire world. Kids wanted to be like him. Men looked up to him and every woman wanted to be Mrs. Neil Armstrong. My world had just collapsed and I didn’t know what to do.

A humble man who, as a kid, only ever wanted to fly, Neil went on to pilot the famous X-15 rocket plane, fly dozens of dangerous missions during the Korean War and later travel in space with Dave Scott on the Gemini 8 mission in 1966. He was unknowingly paving the way for his ultimate destiny to be the first man to walk on the Moon a mere 3 years later.

There will never be another event like this. If anything epitomises the twentieth century it was the first Moon landing. Our first steps on another world. Those of us who witnessed it remember where they were at the time, just as we did when Elvis died and Kennedy was assassinated. Tragedy imprints, indelibly!

For 12 hours during and throughout that moon walk period there was virtually no crime around the world. One in six human beings were watching the moon landing on TV, even the crims, and listening on radios. For a moment in time we were united – we knew, we just knew we were witnessing one of the greatest events in history unfold right before our very eyes.

You only get one shot at this. Only one person can walk on the moon for the first time. It took guts – the ‘right stuff!’ Neil gave them a 50/50 chance of getting to the Moon and getting back. Nasa’s odds were about the same. They were both 38 years old with families and a whole lifetime in front of them, but they went.

I was lucky enough to be invited to spend the morning with Buzz Aldrin at his home in California in 2008, prior to writing a story about the upcoming 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. I remember asking Buzz what concerned them the most, what was the one thing they were concerned about and feared the most.

Both he and Neil had two days cooped up in a small capsule to think about that. He paused, looked up and surprised me by saying they were very aware they were being watched. “We knew that everything we did and everything we said was being recorded for future history,” Buzz said. “It was on our minds constantly.”

OK, it’s over. Neil Armstrong’s name will live on from this day forward. He’s gone beyond the term legend. In the annals of history he’ll be seen as a giant, the Wilbur Wright of our time. Hundreds of years from now kids in a future classroom will be learning about Neil Armstrong, as we studied ancient history in our day.

But hang on, do we leave it all here? Is this where the story ends? Let’s do something about it, something quite radical but completely sensible. Let’s send Neil Armstrong back to the Moon! Not literally but posthumously. Let’s start a movement that will reverberate back to NASA, to the white house and engage a lobby group to have Neil Armstrong’s ashes interred on the Moon.

I’m proposing a monument to be built on the Sea Of Tranquillity, on the spot where Neil and Buzz walked and, if there’s no national burial planned, place his ashes there. An eternal symbol and testament to human accomplishment – as Neil put it, the place where men from planet Earth first set foot on the Moon, and came in peace for all mankind.

Let it be slated for the first Moon return mission, by any country or private consortium. A stone minimally inscribed with a simple message telling the story for future generations. The blood, sweat, tears and spirit of countless thousands who worked on the Moon missions would be indelibly imprinted on it. Even the words ‘Neil and Buzz were here’ would satisfy me.

We’ve got the ‘Monument to a Century of Flight’ located at the Aycock Brown Welcome Centre at milepost 1.5 in Kitty Hawk, NC, the Smithsonian cradles flight history and the ashes of people like Gene Rodenberry, James Doohan et al circle the earth in tributary gestures.

Neil’s remains would be in good company on the Moon sharing the eternal silence with the ashes of Eugene Shoemaker. If you just asked “who” Google the name, it’s a great story. Folks, this is not something we need to do, it’s something we should do!”

The author of this narrative would like to hear any feedback, especially if you’re in a position to help make this happen. Contact Dave Reneke, writer and publicist for Australasian Science magazine via his webpage www.davidreneke.com or email davereneke@gmail.com

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

Aqua4U August 29, 2012 at 7:36 PM

Better, best to check in with his family first, before anything more is said or done about this idea. I think they’d go along with it? but maybe not? Some family’s like to keep all their ancestors in the same place…. if they can.

David Reneke August 29, 2012 at 10:11 PM

I really wish this commenter Nick Howes had read my article properly before posting here. I note the inference of pressure from me by this person in his statement, “pressuring” anyone (NASA etc) to “make this happen”. I made it quite clear in my article that I’d like to see his remains interred in a lunar,memorial IF no national burial was planned.This, by association, would also apply to any private ceremony. There was NO inference by me to override family wishes. Please go back and read it again.
Dave Reneke

Aqua4U August 29, 2012 at 10:43 PM

Thanks so much for being sensitive to this topic. It means a lot to me, and others, I’m sure!

Garrett D'Amore August 30, 2012 at 1:09 AM

Regardless of whether his ashes return to the moon or not, I think the creation of a monument at the Sea of Tranquility should be something we do. As the OP said – even a plaque reading “Buzz and Neil” were here would be suffice. I’d add Michael to that.

(And let’s not forget – the mission was shared by two other individuals — and all three of them shared approximately all the risks. History remembers only the first one out the hatch — but this is an accomplishment that transcends any single individual.)

Actually, the *greatest* accomplishment – testament if you will – would be the creation of a monument *in-situ*, made of lunar regolith. The ability to create such a thing would represent a bigger achievement — a step towards being able to create other structures on the lunar surface – than just sending a stone or metal monument.

Aqua4U August 30, 2012 at 2:38 AM

That’s the spirit! How about sending some sort of precursor memorial as part of the Google Lunar X prize competition?

Keith Rainey August 30, 2012 at 3:48 AM

I have read your article over again and it still looks like you wish to ignore the family’s wishes. I didn’t make the association that no national burial also meant no private ceremony. A request to “engage a lobby group to have Neil Armstrong’s ashes interred on the Moon” implies, at least to me, that family wishes be damned, we want his ashes on the Moon! I can’t disagree with your intent to include the family’s wishes, I am just saying it didn’t come across to me from your article.

Also, let us not forget that there is already a memorial at Tranquility Base with the lander, footprints, and flag. The lander includes a plaque with the names of all the astronauts on the mission. Any return to the site would disturb the footprints that otherwise will be there forever. NASA has requested that the sites be preserved as they are, why go against that?

How about we name the next manned capsule back to the moon the “Armstrong”?

Dampe August 30, 2012 at 4:14 AM

or name it the ‘Neil’ :P Serious calling the next human missions capsule the Armstrong would be fantastic.

Jenny ? August 29, 2012 at 8:15 PM

I agree with Aqua4U. This must be a decision for his family.

Nick Howes August 29, 2012 at 8:51 PM

I don’t usually disagree with the excellent writing of Universe Today, or any of its contributing authors, but in this instance, I sadly do. I feel it’s for his family to decide what becomes of his body, and what memorial they would wish for. I object to the notion of “pressuring” anyone (NASA etc) to “make this happen”. If it was Neil’s wish, then yes, of course, but only his family will know his wishes. Let’s hope that whatever they decide, be it a private family plot, or a state funeral at Arlington or similar, that his memory and legacy is what we cherish, and, given he was a humble, modest man, who wanted none of the publicity, which his achievement brought him, that his final farewell is in keeping with that spirit.

Jenny ? August 29, 2012 at 9:10 PM

Well said Nick

Aqua4U August 29, 2012 at 9:40 PM

I am SURE this idea was generated with the best intentions, and hope it is forwarded to the Armstrong family. I am also sure, that no slight was intended..

Adheeb August 30, 2012 at 12:22 PM

I agree.

zkank August 29, 2012 at 9:17 PM

Since his accomplishment is compared to the level of Christopher Columbus’, a reminder that Columbus died in Europe (Spain), and was interred in the New World.

Chip P August 29, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Armstrong was certainly a national hero, but his remains are NOT the property of the state. It’s a bit disturbing that a writer would actually demand that his body be confiscated and used to satisfy such selfish wishes. Perhaps such a decision should be left to HIS FAMILY???

Kind of sick, if you really think about it…

karlfrankjr August 29, 2012 at 9:19 PM

Also, in honor of Neil Armstrong, we are petitioning the White House rename Columbus Day to Exploration Day. Visit
http://www.facebook.com/ExplorationDayUSA or http://www.explorationdayusa.org for more information.

Dampe August 30, 2012 at 2:47 AM

No disrespect but why change it? It’s just an insult to years of tradition. I doubt any of the Apollo mission engineers or crew would endorse that.
Why not petition for a day set aside for the Apollo astronauts? It doesn’t have to be a public holiday either.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst August 30, 2012 at 5:41 PM

For one reason, Columbus was a HORRIBLE person and didacting his name and making it a celebration of ALL explorers (and human exploration in general) would be a win/win, IMO…

Dampe August 30, 2012 at 3:24 AM

I think a monument, statue or some kind of memorial on the moon would be a fantastic idea. Sending his ashes there seems a little loony to me :P

Kevin Frushour August 30, 2012 at 3:36 AM

I was born in Toledo and spent the better part of my childhood camping in southern Indiana. It was always a big deal to see the Armstrong Museum when we passed it on I-75 on the way to go camping.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst August 30, 2012 at 5:39 PM

I’m from Toledo as well! E.L. Bowsher HS class of ’84!

SJStar August 30, 2012 at 5:04 AM

Arlington is the place, or, if not, where the family wishes. Surely burying him on American soil would be the place for every true patriotic American. As for the ashes on the Moon, why further spoil the pristine environment even further? It makes zero sense.

SJStar August 30, 2012 at 5:16 AM

Dave Reneke is plainly nuts. His spiel is not about Armstrong at all bit is really about Dave’s own little universe and publicity for his Australasian Science magazine.
Bad form and frankly disgusting. You should just MYOB, mate.

Really the spin on this alleged story is exactly as I’ve said earlier posts on his passing — the media is again exploiting Armstrong’s death for it’s own selfish self.
His humility is what made Neil Armstrong great. Learn from that, please.

Jeffrey Scott Boerst August 30, 2012 at 5:03 PM

Does his suit or at least the boot that first touched the Lunar regolith still exist? Perhaps THAT would be an appropriate fetish to store in a commemorative in situ monument?

rynoski August 30, 2012 at 6:03 PM

It’s a sensational idea for sure and certainly an honorable imperative for returning to the moon but the only thing sensational about Armstrong asides from his accomplishments was his incredibly humble nature. As stated already by others – it’s the family’s call. He may not even wanted to have been cremated but in the end his family will make the call to carry out his final wishes. To be sure an imperative to return to the moon to honor of Armstrong’s achievement, maybe even in a short 7 years from now on the Apollo landing’s 50th anniversary, is a fantastic idea. One that should be propelled perhaps even the catalyst for a return endeavor to the moon. I envision a statue of Neil sitting down, smiling as he might have done looking at the moon or the stars but have the statue facing the earth from tranquility base instead. Fitting memorial for his accomplishments.

David Reneke August 30, 2012 at 8:45 PM

I am at a loss to understand the vitriol and negativity of most of these comments.What started out as a suggestion – probably a little too enthusiastically by me – has steamrolled into quite few of you claiming I’m some sort of sensation seeker or heartless and cold publicity hound. Where the hell in my story does that indication appear? The reply from a pathetic ‘SJStar’ was not only disappointing and uncalled for, but sad as well, claiming I’m only concerned about “my own little world” or seeking publicity for a magazine I supply stories for .. free of charge by the way. What a pathetic individual you are! You don’t know me. What’s wrong with you lot?? This article I wrote was meant to do one thing and one thing only- and that was to keep this man’s memory alive for generations to come in a way I thought (wrongly it seems) was not only unique but patriotic as well, like when we sent sending Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes to Pluto or when we fired Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes into the moon. A shrine with a little part of him included. The only mistake I made was probably sounding a little too enthusiastic and ready to bypass the family’s wishes at any and all costs. Not so! It wasn’t written disrespectfully.. just enthusiastically and again, I made mention that I’d like to see it happen IF no burial plans had been made. At the time of writing there wasn’t. I kinda feel some of you see me, or others like me, who write more from the heart as agitators..I can’t fathom that. I fail to see my article in that light but sadly there are people in this world who are plain just “out to get ya!” Ideas and progress are made from thinking outside the box. There wouldn’t be many of you who’ve done as much for the promotion of astronomy, it’s aims and ideals., or promoted he space program as much as I have.

rynoski August 30, 2012 at 5:44 PM

” The only mistake I made was probably sounding a little too enthusiastic and ready to bypass the family’s wishes at any and all costs” – is exactly why I posted what I did – and why others are all posting similar reactions…. I thought personally it was a novel idea and i love the enthusiasm JUST as long as it is still the family’s call to do so. Considering you posted this as a reply to my post however Im inclined to say unless your beef is with me personally – repost it to the general thread.

Brad Styve August 31, 2012 at 2:01 AM

One would have to ask a simple
question, what would Superman do? We as an American public owe this great man
an awe inspiring tribute whatever that may be. While it does not need or
require a part of him, I believe his family would find a gesture like this a
worthwhile display on behalf of a grateful nation. One that recognizes the
great achievement not by a person, but by a free people willing to risk both treasure
and blood to create a better world. An
example that Neil exhibited during his time on this planet “for all mankind”. The question is do we have the will and the belief in exploration to do it?

Les Dalrymple August 31, 2012 at 12:26 AM

Hi All,

I agree with the sentiments of most of the commenters here and respectfully disagree with the suggestion in the article.

Even assuming we had a Moon base, doing this would involve getting from that base (which is much more likely to be at the lunar south pole than anywhere remotely near Mare Tranquilitatis) to “Tranquillity Base” a journey of 1000km plus (and the return) to … erect a monument?

I can almost hear Neil himself howling out from the grave “Nooooooo … that’s dangerous and a waste of resources to put a another monument where one already exists” (the lander itself and the inscriptions upon the plaque) that is unlikely ever to be visited or seen again by another human being.

If it is unlikely ever to be seen again by human eyes, what’s the point?
Expending precious resources and time (and the potential risk to future astronauts who would do it) to place a small portion of Armstrong’s and/or indeed Aldrin’s remains (when the time comes) at a place no one will ever see again. Yes, it’s likely to give a few people (die-hard space aficionados) a warm fuzzy feeling for some time, but achieve very, very little else.

There’s already an on-going funding shortage at NASA and resources are hard to come by — this will continue no doubt for decades. Why spend money on creating a monument no one will likely ever see again, when it can actually be spent on doing … science? (I can almost see Neil nodding at this suggestion).

Wouldn’t a better solution be to have a monument/tomb/grave here on Earth, in an accessible place, that ordinary people can actually visit and pay their respects and Incorporate into the monument actual Moon rocks and regolith brought back by Armstrong and Aldrin?

Then, rather than interning Armstrong and Aldrin at Mare Tranquilitatis, we put some of Mare Tranquilitatis with Armstrong and Aldrin (again, when the time comes) here … where everyone can actually … see it, and be inspired by it ?

How will a monument there, inspire people here?

Les D

David Reneke August 31, 2012 at 5:41 AM

I am at a loss to understand the vitriol and negativity of most of these
comments.What started out as a suggestion – probably a little too
enthusiastically by me – has steamrolled into quite few of you claiming
I’m some sort of sensation seeker or heartless and cold publicity
hound. Where the hell in my story does that indication appear? The reply
from a pathetic ‘SJStar’ was not only disappointing and uncalled for,
but sad as well, claiming I’m only concerned about “my own little world”
or seeking publicity for a magazine I supply stories for .. free of
charge by the way. What a pathetic individual you are! You don’t know
me. What’s wrong with you lot?? This article I wrote was meant to do one
thing and one thing only- and that was to keep this man’s memory alive
for generations to come in a way I thought (wrongly it seems) was not
only unique but patriotic as well, like when we sent Clyde Tombaugh’s
ashes to Pluto or when we fired Eugene Shoemaker’s ashes into the moon.
Where was the protest there? A shrine with a little part of Neil
Armstrong included in a place history was made was all I sugested. The
only mistake I made was probably sounding a little too enthusiastic and
ready to bypass the family’s wishes at any and all costs. Not so! It
wasn’t written disrespectfully.. just enthusiastically and again, I made
mention that I’d like to see it happen IF no burial plans had been
made. At the time of writing there wasn’t. I kinda feel some of you see
me, or others like me, who write more from the heart as agitators..I
can’t fathom that. I fail to see my article in that light but sadly
there are people in this world who are plain just “out to get ya!” Ideas
and progress are made from thinking outside the box. There wouldn’t be
many of you who’ve done as much for the promotion of astronomy, it’s
aims and ideals, or promoted the space program as much as I have.

SJStar August 31, 2012 at 6:15 AM

Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty,” said his family… Did you not hear this?

He/his family wishes a private service. Your ideas/wishes are totally irrelevant, and is really, in fact, importunate and quite impertinent. It is not a matter for discussion by the vox populi or what others think is right. It is a personal matter by the deceased own family or the wishes of the deceased. They are probably suffering greatly in their own personal grief. Just respect that. (Put it this way. How would you like others to make this decision for you — totally ignoring the family wishes or that of your own views? I’d would think not. )

Yet the incredulity here is you still don’t get it!

Repeating posts and the desperate cries of unfairness plainly doesn’t change this.

So if this doesn’t make you understand, then we can only reason that you are saying this for your own benefit or some personal attention. I.e. Look at me! Look at me! What else can we think?

SJStar August 31, 2012 at 6:23 AM

…or these comments made against you might actually be true.

David Reneke August 31, 2012 at 7:07 AM

Sorry….and I don’t want to but I have to be blunt… but are you the full quid??? You’re a moron! There are no desperate cries, it’s not a personal wish, I don’t want to “benefit” anything… there’s no going against any family wishes… I can’t believe you’ve made so much out of a simple story.
I really think you need help.

SJStar August 31, 2012 at 7:32 AM

Fair enough.

SJStar August 31, 2012 at 8:35 AM

Looking at the comments on this forum at http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/137786-Let’s-Send-Neil-Back-To-The-Moon , it looks like a few others who agree with the person who is not “the full quid”, the “moron” and who really “need help.”

Perhaps it is instead you here who should be examining their own grasp on reality?

Les Dalrymple August 31, 2012 at 1:52 AM

I agree with the sentiments of most of the commenters here (at Universe today that commented on this article) and respectfully disagree with the suggestion in the article.

Even assuming we had a Moon base, doing this would involve getting from that base (which is much more likely to be at the lunar south pole than anywhere remotely near Mare Tranquilitatis) to “Tranquillity Base” a journey of 1000km plus (and the return) to … erect a monument?

I can almost hear Neil himself howling out from the grave “Nooooooo … that’s dangerous and a waste of resources to put a another monument where one already exists” (the lander itself and the inscriptions upon the plaque) that is unlikely ever to be visited or seen again by another human being.

If it is unlikely ever to be seen again by human eyes, what’s the point? Expending precious resources and time (and the potential risk to future astronauts who would do it) to place a small portion of Armstrong’s and/or indeed Aldrin’s remains (when the time comes) at a place no one will ever see again. Yes, it’s likely to give a few people (die-hard space aficionados) a warm fuzzy feeling for some time, but achieve very, very little else.

There’s already an on-going funding shortage at NASA and resources are hard to come by — this will continue no doubt for decades. Why spend money on creating a monument no one will likely ever see again, when it can actually be spent on doing … science? (I can almost see Neil nodding at this suggestion).

Wouldn’t a better solution be to have a monument/tomb/grave here on Earth, in an accessible place, that ordinary people can actually visit and pay their respects and incorporate into the monument actual Moon rocks and regolith brought back by Armstrong and Aldrin?

Then, rather than interning Armstrong and Aldrin at Mare Tranquilitatis, we put some of Mare Tranquilitatis with Armstrong and Aldrin (again, when the time comes) here … where everyone can actually … see it, and be inspired by it ?

How will a monument there, inspire people here?

Best,

Les D

SJStar August 31, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Neil Armstrong once agreed with the famous Captain Robert Falcon Scott of the Antarctic, who said, on the last page of his diary;

After all, it is the work that counts, not the applause that follows.

kkt September 6, 2012 at 9:00 PM

News reports today are that Neil Armstrong is to be buried at sea. That was his wish and his family’s. He was a very private person and did not wish a permanent visible memorial.

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