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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Neil Armstrong: 1930 - 2012

By Phil Plait

The first human to set foot on another world has died. Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong was 82.

There is so much that can be said about this man, from his incredible career to his notorious shying away from the spotlight. He had history thrust upon him, and performed in a way that will be an inspiration to generations of explorers.

I've said many times that we can divide all of history into two parts: before humans landed on the Moon, and after. It was not just an important moment, it was the moment, a defining, crystallizing slice of time that confirmed that we humans had become a space faring race. One world could not and would not contain us, and the sky itself was no longer the limit.

We have had our missteps since that one small step, and we can argue about the directions we are or should be taking. But given what we've done, and what we are capable of, I have the spark of hope that the future will look back at July 1969 and recognize it for what it was: the dawn of a new era. The end of homo sapiens terrestrialis and the birth of homo sapiens cosmos.

Neil Armstrong was the human who literally stood at that dividing line.

And I wonder... will there someday be a holiday in his honor? In my mind's eye I can see people lining the streets, watching parades, talking about that day, smiling and laughing... and all the while, through a quartz window in the dome, the crescent Earth will be hanging in the black sky above them.

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