Matthew May | Neil Armstrong: ‘There Was Work to Do’

There  is no American civilian more deserving of a state funeral than Neil Alden  Armstrong. But to hold one, as some  have suggested, would go against the modest ethic that Armstrong demonstrated  his entire life.

Perhaps  the most astonishing thing about Armstrong given his life – more than his flying  dozens of combat missions in Korea that interrupted his undergraduate studies at  Purdue University, more than his daring test piloting in the X-15, more than  being the first human being to touch the surface of another celestial body —  was his complete humility. His job, as he saw it, was to push the limits of  engineering and human imagination in order to advance mankind.

When  Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins returned safely from their lunar  odyssey, the world was theirs. Decades removed, it is difficult to imagine the  adulation that Armstrong and his crew received during their post-flight goodwill  tour. Neil Armstrong, 38 years of age, literally had the world at his feet. He  had become, through a series of circumstance and preparation, perhaps the most  famous man in the history of the world. He could have cashed in on his fame, on  his accomplishment, or merely traded on his name for the remainder of his life.  His desire? To work for NASA for a while longer and then go back home to Ohio to  farm, fly, and teach aerospace engineering. That’s it.

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