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Neil Armstrong, 1st man on moon, dies

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Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, died Saturday at the age of 82. (Source: NASA) Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, died Saturday at the age of 82. (Source: NASA)
Neil Armstrong stands next to the X-15, a rocket-powered aircraft, after a test flight in 1960. (Source: NASA) Neil Armstrong stands next to the X-15, a rocket-powered aircraft, after a test flight in 1960. (Source: NASA)
This photo was taken by fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 flight, the first mission to land on the moon. (Source: NASA) This photo was taken by fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 flight, the first mission to land on the moon. (Source: NASA)
Astronaut Neil Armstrong climbs down the ladder of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon. (Source: NASA) Astronaut Neil Armstrong climbs down the ladder of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon. (Source: NASA)

(RNN) - Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the man who uttered the iconic words "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," has died at the age of 82.

His family announced Armstrong died from complications with heart-bypass surgery he had earlier this month to remove blockage from coronary arteries. He also celebrated his 82nd birthday Aug. 5.

The family's statement described him as a "reluctant American hero who always believed in doing his job," but "never lost his boyhood wonder" of his pursuits.

They also called him a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. 

"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," the family said.

"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."

The first man on the moon devoted his life to discovery and service. He served as a test pilot and naval aviator, however, he is most remembered for his role as a pioneer of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. As one of the first NASA astronauts, he paved the way for military and civilian space exploration.

From gliders to rockets, Armstrong piloted more than 200 different types aircraft.

During his work with NASA, he devoted much of his research to developing high-speed flight, including the X-15 aircraft, which recorded a record-setting top speed of 4,520 miles per hour.

But the spirit of Armstrong's work ethic can be summed up in a statement that is lesser known but just as powerful:

"I believe that every human has a finite number of heartbeats, and I don't intend to waste any of mine," Armstrong was quoted.

Armstrong received many awards throughout his career, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian award in the United States. He was also one of the first recipients of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

His honors, however, extended far beyond the borders of the United States.

As the first man to step on the surface of an extraterrestrial body, the lunar crater that Armstrong's mission, Apollo 11, landed near is named in his honor. At the time of his death, he had received honors from 17 different countries for his aviation research and development.

Neil Allen Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, OH.

After graduating from Purdue University with a degree in aeronautical engineering and receiving a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California, Armstrong joined the armed services.

In 1949, he began serving as a naval aviator. However, in 1952 he began a career as a test pilot. It was then that he was selected to become a member of the astronaut corps with the newly formed NASA.

His first space flight came in 1966 when he served as a crew member aboard Gemini 8. The mission was the first time two space vehicles docked together.

Three years later, Armstrong became the commander of the famed Apollo 11 mission. Armstrong, along with his partner Buzz Aldrin, went down in history as being the first men to touch down on the surface of the moon.

After being the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, he explored its surface for 2.5 hours.

Armstrong left NASA soon after in 1971. He accepted a faculty position at the University of Cincinnati to teach aerospace engineering.

After retiring from the university in 1979, Armstrong assumed a position on the National Commission on Space in1985 and served for two years. Afterward, he investigated the space shuttle Challenger explosion.

Armstrong fell out of the public eye toward the end of his life, living silently in Ohio with his wife, Carol Held Knight.

Armstrong had three children with his first wife, Janet Shearon. He is survived by his two sons, Eric and Mark. His daughter, Karen, died of pneumonia in 1962.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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