"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
The very sad news that Neil Armstrong, first man to step onto the surface of another planetary body on the 20 July 1969 has passed away.
It will of course be history that will measure his full effect on humankind, but there is no doubt that he stood as an equal with the other great explorers of human history. His name will live on as will his achievements with Christopher Columbus, Captain Scott, Captain James Cook, Ferdinand Magellan and Sir Edmund Hillary.
Although I was born in 1972 some three years after Neil Armstrong left his Luna Lander and climbed down the ladder to step foot on the Moon. The impact of this one individual on both my life and every person’s life after this great achievement has been immense.
Many would say that so many thousands of hard working individuals contributed to the successful landing in 1969. But it takes a special individual to be selected and then travel a quarter of a million miles to be the first.
That landing and the landings that followed inspired a generation sadly let down by politicians on all sides universally. Space the last great frontier of true exploration has been mostly abandoned to robotic explorers. Perhaps this reduces the risks, but it also sanitises discovery and danger and sadly robs us of future explorers and heroes.
The moon, left untouched by humans for over thirty years, a sad epitaph for such a heroic achievement that was the Apollo Programme. To so many post war children and their children that our appetites and hunger for greater fetes of exploration were denied by penny-pinching governments more determined to build weapons of mass destruction of spend billions on more elaborate ways to fight wars. If just one tenth of the money spent on the American Military had been spent with NASA. I would place a safe bet that we would have seen a Mars landing by now.
For now, we are left with the memories of Neil and his brave crew of Apollo 11, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. All three pushed the boundaries of human exploration which has never been matched by any human since.
Rest in peace Neil, you are at home amongst the stars.
"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."