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Neil Armstrong the first man to set foot upon the Moon died today (August 25 2012) as a result of complications following from heart-bypass surgery he underwent earlier this month. He was 82 years old.

As commander of the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong cemented his place in history on July 20, 1969 when he stepped onto the lunar surface and uttered his famous words: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind". He was then joined on the surface a few minutes later by Buzz Aldrin.

Three years previously he made his first trip into space onboard Gemini 8 and along with pilot Dave Scott they performed the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit. A serious spacecraft system failure forced the astronauts to heroically use much of their descent fuel to re-control the spacecraft before making an emergency early return to Earth. It was a life-threatening situation and his coolness under pressure averted a potential space disaster.

Neil Armstrong inside the Lunar Module (NASA)

Neil Armstrong was a very private and unassuming person who was always quick to praise everyone involved in the space program and that he was only doing his part. But what a part he played! He is perhaps best summarised in the words of his family:

"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."