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Originally published: 2012-08-29 09:48:45
Last modified: 2012-08-29 09:48:45

Our View: One giant loss for mankind

Few are the individuals whose most important accomplishment comes not from something he did, but from what he did after that something. Neil Armstrong was one of those few.

The death of Armstrong on Saturday touches each of us, from Watauga County, North Carolina to Yuba County, California, and across the globe. Certainly, Armstrong’s achievements themselves are touchstones.

The world’s most famous astronaut taught us that man can reach his dreams, even when those dreams are more than 200,000 miles away.

But Armstrong taught us more than that: Indeed, his greatest accomplishment wasn’t the lunar walk — it was the path he chose after he left the surface of the moon.

Despite a celebrity standing that placed him among the most recognizable and famous people of our time, Armstrong did not use fame as a personal launch pad. By continuing a quiet life of teaching and farming — the astronaut made notably few public appearances - Armstrong asserted that man’s first moon walk wasn’t about a man, but about mankind.

He said as much from the surface of the moon. And he said as much later, in numerous ways, on the surface of the Earth:

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”

“I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine.”

“The important achievement of Apollo was demonstrating that humanity is not forever chained to this planet and our visions go rather further than that and our opportunities are unlimited.”

Armstrong’s humble walk on Earth was the antithesis to the steps he took on the surface of the moon, but it is his walk within our own atmosphere for which he must be most remembered.