Neil Armstrong: He was a gentle, witty, good man, uncomfortable with his status as an icon

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012), he was the first person to walk on the Moon.

Questions:

1. What is the legacy of Neil Armstrong for the space exploration?

2. What would be the best way how to honor his legacy if we are talking about the space exploration? A return to the Moon? A flight to Mars? Or even flight to “infinity and beyond”?

Answers:

John Logsdon, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and International Affairs, Space Policy Institute, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University

Neil Armstrong was a true pioneer of the science and art of flight. That was what drove him – pushing the frontier on human ability to travel through air and space, operating at the edge of performance. More broadly, he wanted to contribute to making the experience of flight accessible and safe for everyone. Although he was never comfortable with his status as an icon because of Apollo 11, as he got older he accepted that reality and came to enjoy sharing his experience of flying to a landing on the Moon with all who would listen.Behind the scenes, Neil Armstrong was always willing to contribute his ideas and experience to the aerospace profession; he served on many advisory and review committees, never seeking the public spotlight.

I had many interactions with Neil Armstrong over the past forty years. I was not his friend, but we were on a first-name basis. He was a gentle, witty, good man, uncomfortable with his status as an icon but willing to share his experiences.

2. The best way to honor Neil Armstrong would be for the United States to take a leading role in a global space exploration coalition that carries out over the coming decades a sustained, affordable, and productive program of exploratory missions, continuing, as did Armstrong, to push the frontiers of human experience.

Mike GruntmanProfessor of Astronautics, University of Southern California

1. Armstrong was an inspiration for many, not only as a man who was the first to step on the Moon, but also as a human being. With all his fame, he was always very modest and never tried to attract attention of the media (which would have been extremely easy for him). He stayed away from the public light except for cases of serious importance for the country. In 2010, he and a couple other prominent astronauts went to Congress to testify on alarming developments in the U.S. space program, disagreeing with the its new course set by the new Obama administration in Washington. Continuing turbulence and lack of direction in American space program confirms the importance of people like Armstrong speaking out.

Interestingly, Armstrong got a Master of Science degree in engineering from my university (USC) in 1970.

Landing on the Moon was a major event in the Cold War, with rivalry between two superpowers highlighted by the race to the Moon.

2. There are major disagreements in the space community on the course where the U.S. should go in human spaceflight. The question on direction is certainly not settled. The best way of honoring the legacy of Neil Armstrong – in current political environment – would be for space specialists and enthusiast to keep politics away from space and concentrate on exploration and strive for by-partisan support for the great enterprise. It will certainly then bring us to new exciting accomplishments.

Ron DiIulioPlanetarium and Astronomy Laboratory Director, Physics Department, University of North Texas

One fact that cannot be questioned is that Neil Armstrong was the first explorer to make his mark on another world. No one else can make this claim. I cannot imaging his footprint not being included in every history book since that day.

1. Neil Armstrong’s legacy proves that Humans can achieve seemingly unreachable goals with sufficient challenge. Until civilization believes that we MUST inhabit other planets to save our species, I don’t think we will rise to that challenge.

2. I’m sorry to say that I don’t believe that we will be successful in surviving a trip to Mars and Beyond until there is a great deal of new Technology developed that will allow us to carry astronauts safely and quickly through the dangerous void of Space. Current medical studies show that our current technology would not insure the safe passage and return of any human. As a result, we are developing more robotic missions, which are far safer and MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE. Sadly, I believe that the Lunar Astronauts may become the only human explorers to set foot on another planet during our lifetimes.

Steven Schneider, Professor, School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Aerospace Sciences Lab, Purdue University

He showed great courage and clarity of mind under pressure, in numerous situations, including the moon landing with fuel running out. He was modest and did not grasp for glory.

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