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 [email protected]
Tammy was 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.
(Tammy passed away in early 2015… she will be missed)