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Neil Armstrong Remembered: Tributes to 1st Man to Walk on the Moon

Neil Armstrong, the first human ever to walk on the surface of the moon, died Saturday at age 82.
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Neil Armstrong, the first human ever to walk on the surface of the moon, died Saturday at age 82.

Armstrong was catapulted onto the world stage on July 20, 1969, when, as commander of NASA's Apollo 11 mission, he stepped on to the moon's surface for the first time and said words that will forever be remembered: "That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."

Armstrong died due to complications from recent heart surgery. He was a Navy test pilot before joining NASA's astronaut corps in 1962 and was one of a handful of pilots to fly the X-15 rocket. Here are the first tributes to Armstrong from U.S. officials, NASA and others:  

U.S. President Barack Obama

Michelle and I were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Neil Armstrong.

Neil was 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. [ Photos: Neil Armstrong – A Space Icon ]

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.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes. The moon will miss its first son of Earth.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Carol and the rest of Armstrong family on the passing of Neil Armstrong. 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.

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.

As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut and true American hero. [ Giant Leaps: Top Milestones in Human Spaceflight ]

Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 lunar module pilot and second man to walk on the moon

I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Neil Armstrong today. Neil and I trained together as technical partners but were also good friends who will always be connected through our participation in the mission of Apollo 11. Whenever I look at the moon it reminds me of the moment over four decades ago when I realized that even though we were farther away from Earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone.

Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us. I know I am joined by millions of others in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a landmark moment in human history. I had truly hoped that in 2019, we would be standing together along with our colleague Mike Collins to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our  moon landing. Regrettably, this is not to be. Neil will most certainly be there with us in spirit.

On behalf of the Aldrin family, we extend our deepest condolences to Carol and the entire Armstrong family. I will miss my friend Neil as I know our fellow citizens and people around world will miss this foremost aviation and space pioneer.

May he Rest in Peace.

Michael Collins, Apollo 11 command module pilot

He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.

Family of Neil Armstrong

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.

Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

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.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. 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.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

A true hero has returned to the Heavens to which he once flew. Neil Armstrong blazed trails not just for America, but for all of mankind. He inspired generations of boys and girls worldwide not just through his monumental feat, but with the humility and grace with which he carried himself to the end.

George Whitesides, CEO and President, Virgin Galactic private spaceflight company

Armstrong will be remembered for thousands of years, not just as a pioneering explorer but as a man who represented the best of humanity. He will be deeply missed but never forgotten.

John Logsdon, space policy expert and professor emeritus at George Washington University

Neil Armstrong was a true pioneer of the science and art of flight. That was what drove him – pushing the frontier on human ability to travel through air and space at the edge of performance. More broadly, he wanted to contribute to making the experience of flight accessible and safe for everyone.

Although he was never comfortable with his status as an icon because of Apollo 11, as he got older he accepted that reality and came to enjoy sharing his experience of landing on the moon with all who would listen.

Although Neil Armstrong may have passed away, his name will be part of human history forever.

John Pike, director of public policy organization

People of a certain age know exactly where they were and who they were with when they saw "Live from the Moon" at the bottom of the TV screen.

Lon Rains, chairman of the Coalition for Space Exploration

Today we mourn the loss of Neil Armstrong, a true hero for all mankind. Neil was a humble man who devoted his life and his career to serving a greater cause. From the children who strive to explore the stars to those who devote their lives to reaching beyond the bonds of earth, one can only hope to follow in his footsteps.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of this great man. We will forever celebrate his life, his accomplishments and his spirit.

Elliot Pulham, Space Foundation CEO

Armstrong's quiet resolve and unyielding belief in the importance of exploration will be missed by a grateful nation. In an age when Hollywood and professional sports manufacture so-called 'heroes,' Armstrong exemplified the right stuff. He was the real deal. Particularly in this age of timid exploration goals and paltry NASA budgets, Armstrong looms as a larger-than-life reminder of what our nation was once capable of.

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), senior member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Neil Armstrong and I share the grief of a nation in mourning.

Neil Armstrong's name will be one of the few iconic names from our era found in history books a thousand years from now. But there is no way those history books will be able to capture the bravery, kindness, and dignity of this great pilot and brave astronaut.

I had the honor of meeting him and discussing the future of our space programs with him over the years. There has never been a stronger advocate for America to continue the bold exploration of space.  I can think of no greater tribute to his memory than for America to heed that call.

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta

I was deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of Neil Armstrong, one of America's greatest heroes and Naval aviators.  On behalf of the Department of Defense, I express my condolences to the Armstrong family during this difficult time. 

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.  

As a true pioneer, his one small step showed all mankind the great feats we can accomplish when we set ourselves to the task.  While Neil is no longer with us, his spirit and his legacy of American achievement and national pride will live forever.

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