Memorial for Neil Armstrong to be held in D.C.

September 13, 2012 3:20:41 AM PDT
A true American hero is set to be honored in Washington Thursday. A public memorial service will be held for Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

Armstrong died last month, at age 82. Services will be held at the national cathedral, but we spoke with the flight director of the mission that put Armstrong on the moon.

By all accounts, Neil Armstrong would not have been comfortable with the tributes which have come since his death. He shunned the label of hero, though that's how he will be memorialized in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

At the Washington National Cathedral, embedded in one window is a rock brought back from the moon by Armstrong and the Apollo 11 astronauts, so it's fitting that one of the pioneers of space who brought that rock back would be given a public memorial there.

Armstrong the man who made history so many years ago. He died August 25 after complications from cardiovascular surgery. He was 82.

"We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard," former President John F. Kennedy said at the Rice University campus.

It was 50 years ago Wednesday that President Kennedy set the U.S. on a course of space exploration.

"One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong said then.

By 1969, the eagle had landed. Armstrong's boot marking on the moon the first human footstep.

"We lost a tremendous human being. We lost a man who knew what he wanted to do," Apollo 11 flight director Christopher Kraft said.

Armstrong was a private man but Kraft knew him as well as anyone. As NASA's first manned space flight director and director of flight operations during Apollo 11, it was Kraft who suggested Armstrong take that first step on the moon, not Buzz Aldrin.

"We knew what he wanted to do, we knew how good he was at accomplishing whatever he set out to do and whatever we set out to do," Kraft said.

It wasn't till 25 years later that the two talked privately about what they'd accomplished. Armstrong, Kraft notes, was unusually humble. That humility not found often among men who were daring to go where no one had gone before.

"I didn't see that happen very often in astronauts," Kraft said. "He believed in the team, he believed in the people behind him."


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