Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, will be memorialized this Friday at private service held in Cincinnati. To coincide with the service, President Barack Obama has ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff.
The Ohio native died Saturday in Cincinnati at age 82. No other information was released immediately about the service.
On Monday, the President issued a proclamation calling for U.S. flags to be lowered the day of Armstrong’s burial, including at the White House, military posts and ships, U.S. embassies and other public buildings “as a mark of respect for the memory of Neil Armstrong.” Ohio Gov. John Kasich had Ohio flags on all public buildings and grounds flown at half-staff through Friday.
There have been preliminary discussions about a national memorial service for Armstrong, who often shunned publicity in the decades after his historic mission, but a family spokesman said there were no details yet.
The Museum of Natural History & Science of the Cincinnati Museum Center has an exhibit that includes a moon rock and replicas of Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit and tools used on the moon. It is offering free admission through Labor Day to honor Armstrong, and more than 2,000 people visited Sunday.
Armstrong, who commanded the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, 1969, was born in Wapakoneta, in western Ohio. He is celebrated there at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum, which is planning a memorial tribute Wednesday night.
The tribute is called “Wink at the Moon.” The statement Armstrong’s family released upon his death requested that the public honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, adding “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.”
“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,” his family said.
Armstrong died Saturday in Cincinnati, Ohio, according to a NASA spokesman. The agency’s administrator put the death in perspective.
“As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them,” said Charles Bolden. “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.”
Armstrong took two trips into space. He made his first journey in 1966 as commander of the Gemini 8 mission, which nearly ended in disaster.
Armstrong kept his cool and brought the spacecraft home safely after a thruster rocket malfunctioned and caused it to spin wildly out of control.
During his next space trip in July 1969, Armstrong and fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off in Apollo 11 on a nearly 250,000-mile journey to the moon that went down in the history books. It took them four days to reach their destination. The world watched and waited as the lunar module “Eagle” separated from the command module and began its descent. Then came the words from Armstrong: “Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.” About six and a half hours later at 10:56 p.m. ET on July 20, 1969, Armstrong, at age 38, became the first person to set foot on the moon.
He uttered the now-famous phrase: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The quote was originally recorded without the “a,” which was picked up by voice recognition software many years later.
Armstrong was on the moon’s surface for two hours and 32 minutes and Aldrin, who followed him, spent about 15 minutes less than that.
The two astronauts set up an American flag, scooped up moon rocks and set up scientific experiments before returning to the main spacecraft.
All three returned home to a hero’s welcome, and none ever returned to space.
The moon landing was a major victory for the United States, which at the height of the Cold War in 1961 committed itself to landing a man on the moon and returning him safely before the decade was out.
It was also a defining moment for the world. The launch and landing were broadcast on live TV and countless people watched in amazement as Armstrong walked on the moon.
Tributes to Armstrong — who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, the highest award offered to a U.S. civilian — poured in as word of his death spread.
Armstrong studied aeronautical engineering and earned degrees from Purdue University and University of Southern California. He served in the Navy, and flew 78 combat missions during the Korean War.
“He was the best, and I will miss him terribly,” said Collins, the Apollo 11 command module pilot.
After his historic mission to the moon, Armstrong worked for NASA, coordinating and managing the administration’s research and technology work.
“Neil Armstrong was a hero not just of his time, but of all time,” President Barack Obama said via Twitter. “Thank you, Neil, for showing us the power of one small step.”
In 1971, he resigned from NASA and taught engineering at the University of Cincinnati for nearly a decade.
While many people are quick to cash in on their 15 minutes of fame, Armstrong largely avoided the public spotlight and chose to lead a quiet, private life with his wife and children.
“He was really an engineer’s engineer — a modest man who was always uncomfortable in his singular role as the first person to set foot on the moon. He understood and appreciated the historic consequences of it and yet was never fully willing to embrace it. He was modest to the point of reclusive. You could call him the J.D. Salinger of the astronaut corps,” said Miles O’Brien, an aviation expert with PBS’ Newshour, formerly of CNN.
“Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go,” Armstrong said.
“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,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
The Armstrong family released a statement Monday evening saying that “the outpouring of condolences and kind wishes from around the world overwhelms us and we appreciate it more than words can express.”
What the statement implies is that instead of sending flowers, memorial contributions could be made to the Neil Armstrong New Frontiers Initiative at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center or to the Neil Armstrong Scholarship Fund at the Telluride Foundation in Telluride, Colo.; it would be perhaps what he would have preferred.