U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, dead at 82

COLUMBUS, OHIO (BNO NEWS) -- American astronaut Neil Armstrong, who made history when he stepped onto the moon's surface as commander of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, died at a hospital in Ohio on Saturday, his family said. He was 82.

Armstrong, from Wapakoneta, Ohio, had celebrated his birthday earlier this month just days before he underwent surgery due to blocked coronary arteries. Complications from the cardiovascular procedures ultimately caused his death at a hospital in Ohio on Saturday, according to his family.

"We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend," his family said in a written statement released on Armstrong's website.

It added: "While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves."

Armstrong served as commander during the Apollo 11 mission, the first manned lunar landing mission, in July 1969. He immediately rose to fame around the world for being the first man to land a craft on the moon and then the first man to step on its surface, after which he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin explored it for over two hours.

People from around the world gathered around their television sets to watch coverage of the moon landing and to hear Armstrong's famous words as he stepped onto the moon's surface. "That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong said on July 20, 1969, as he became a part of history.

"Neil Armstrong was a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job," Armstrong's family said on Saturday. "He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits."

The family also made a simple request for those who want to honor Armstrong. "Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink," the statement said.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expressed his condolences on behalf of the organization. "As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own," he said. "Besides being one of America's greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all. When President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a human to the moon, Neil Armstrong accepted without reservation."

U.S. President Barack Obama said he and his wife Michelle were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Armstrong. "Neil was among the greatest of American heroes - not just of his time, but of all time," he said. "When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation."

Obama added: "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."

"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," Obama concluded.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hailed Armstrong as one of America's greatest heroes and Naval aviators. "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," he said.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also expressed his sadness over Armstrong's death. "Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes," he said. "With courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country, he walked where man had never walked before. The moon will miss its first son of earth."

Armstrong is survived by his wife, two sons, a stepson, a stepdaughter, 10 grandchildren, and a brother and sister.

(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: sales@bnonews.com.)

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