Sad news this weekend that US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, has died aged 82. A statement from his family says he died from complications from heart surgery he had earlier this month.
He set foot on the Moon on 20 July 1969, famously describing the event as “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.
There have been many conspiracy theories that continue to circulate including:
Maintaining that NASA and others knowingly misled the public into believing the landings happened by manufacturing, destroying, or tampering with evidence; including photos, telemetry tapes, transmissions, rock samples, and even some key witnesses.
Speculation that NASA faked the first landing in 1969 in order to win the Space Race.
Claims that the landings helped the US government because they were a popular distraction from the Vietnam War; and so manned landings suddenly ended about the same time that the US ended its role in the Vietnam War.
This is despite the fact that since the late 2000’s, high-definition photos taken by the LROC spacecraft of the Apollo landing sites have captured the lander modules and the tracks left by the astronauts. Then, earlier this year, images were released showing the Apollo flags still standing on the lunar surface.
In their statement following his death the Armstrong’s family spoke of a man who never lost his “boyhood wonder” at the pursuits of aviation and spaceflight, adding: “For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour 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.” Twitter was of course quick to respond with the hashtag #WinkAtTheMoon trending worldwide.
Despite his incredible accomplishment of being the first man to walk on solid ground somewhere other than Earth, he seemed to be extremely down to earth. I think my favourite quote from him was, when revealing publicly his initial concerns about the Apollo 11 mission, when he had believed there was only a 50% chance of landing on the moon, his statement “I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised that we were successful.” This from a man who had the ultimate bragging rights. May he rest in peace, dreaming [for the first time apparently] of “Walking on the Moon”.