It is one of the first facts I ever committed to memory: who was the first man to walk on the moon?
Answer: Neil Armstrong.
As a child Neil Armstrong’s name and achievements were etched into my brain. This man walked on the moon.
The thrill afforded me by this fact has never waned.
My interest in space, astronomy, and in science was first piqued by the moon landings. I wasn’t even born when the Eagle touched down on the moon, yet seeing those grainy old black and white images still thrilled me. Humans had been to the moon. How cool was that! How cool were those astronauts!
Neil Armstrong set foot on another world using technology that today would seem laughable, or even suicidal. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins took themselves away from all that was safe, all that was comfortable, all that they loved, to explore our closest cosmological neighbour.
To my child’s mind Neil was a hero – an intrepid traveller and pioneer. He uttered the most perfect words as he stepped on to that virginal moon dust. I still get shivers down my spine whenever I hear that transmission.
But, sadly, Neil Armstrong has taken his final leap – a leap that all of mankind has to one day take.