President Obama called astronaut Neil Armstrong, who passed away today at age 82, “among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time.”
“When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation. They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable – that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten,” Obama said in a statement issued by the White House this afternoon.
“Today, Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown – including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure – sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step,” he added.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said “we are bidding farewell to one of our own.”
“As a decorated Korean War veteran, as an astronaut for NASA, and as the first man to walk on the moon, Neil inspired generations of Americans to believe that as a nation we are capable of achieving greatness that only comes with determination, perseverance, and hard work,” Panetta said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said “America, the space community and the entire world have lost a courageous pioneer.”
“One needs to look no further than the various foreign currencies in the donation box at Washington’s National Air and Space Museum to understand what our space program means not only for our country but for all of humanity,” the senator said. “Neil Armstrong and his fellow astronauts helped make that dream possible, and today we honor the life, courage and legacy of this great man.”
“Forty-three years ago, his was the voice that came through loud and clear at Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control to alert an anxious nation and the world of man’s first steps on the surface of the moon,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R). “Neil Armstrong’s immortalized words, ‘that’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind,’ ushered us into a new era where we believed anything was possible.”