Neil Armstrong: Never the showman, always the astronaut

Published: August 28, 2012
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"Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty." PHOTO: REUTERS

Ask any serious sci-fi fan, and they will tell you that the most compelling piece of science fiction has a strong element of plausibility. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to believe that the fiction you are consuming is within the realms of possibility, then your imagination’s immersion within that universe is likely to be deeper.

In that sense, science fiction fans have much to thank the people at NASA for, who in bringing about the moon landing, unshackled the gates of imagination for the minds of countless, including myself.

Although I was born 11 years after American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Lightyear…err… Buzz Aldrin became the first men to set foot on the moon, the mere mention of their names was enough to get me excited. The gentlemanly Neil Armstrong especially, was a hero for me. Not only was he the first man on the moon, an aerospace engineer, and a former Navy pilot, but he also carried an abnormally masculine last name, which appealed to me as a geeky boy.

Armstrong was the commander of the NASA crew that finally landed on the moon on July 20th 1969, after then President John F Kennedy made it an American goal to do so before the Soviet Union, which with satellite Sputnik, had been the first to reach space over a decade previously.

When Armstrong announced that his first step on the moon was a giant leap for mankind, he wasn’t kidding. Suddenly, the scope of possibilities for human achievement seemed endless. This wasn’t one of our greatest achievements but our greatest achievement. We had put a man on the moon, and could now do anything.

Just to give you an idea of the astronomical distance Neil Armstrong covered to reach the only natural satellite (Yes, the Moon), of our planet Earth, I refer you to this Info Graphic designed by the BBC, which is an absolute pleasure to use.

Sadly, there isn’t a discussion you can have about Neil Armstrong without conspiracy theorists talking about the moon landing having been faked. The first thing they will point to is the politically charged space race between the Soviet Union and The United States, and how it was crucial for the latter to win, which was motive enough for them to have faked it. By that logic alone, it would seem that anyone with anything imperative to achieve would cheat, and that no one would be earning anything through hard work.

Then, there are others who point out to the fact that man hasn’t been on the moon since, as evidence that Neil Armstrong’s landing was faked. On the contrary, I believe that this is further evidence that the landing was real.

Anything that is fake, is cheaper to achieve, and thus can be replicated endlessly if needed, for showboating. But, Neil Armstrong’s moon landing was a supremely expensive scientific expedition, where his team collected data. What need did mankind have to fund more such expensive expeditions? Let me put it this way. The Mars Curiosity rover, part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) space probe, recently landed on the red planet, in a project said to have cost about USD 2.5 billion. How many of us realistically expect this expensive project to be regularly repeated in our lifetimes, when there are no further scientific benefits, and the rest of outer space beckons?

For irrefutable evidence that these conspiracy theories are patently incorrect, simply refer to episode 104 of Mythbusters, which using science, busts these crackpot theories quite easily.

Interestingly enough, a conspiracy theorist armed with a camera crew, approached Buzz Aldrin, accusing him of lying to the world. What he embarrassingly earned was a strong punch from the old man, which was vindictive enough to answer the young man’s queries.

But Aldrin’s cavalier response in that video shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially those at NASA, who when deciding on which of the two astronauts should be the iconic first man on the moon, decided on Armstrong for his noble personality, and leader like selfless qualities.

NASA official, Christopher C Kraft Jr., talks about this in his autobiography,

“Did we think Buzz was the man who would be our best representative to the world, the man who would be legend? Neil Armstrong, reticent, soft-spoken and heroic, was our only choice.”

To give the readers of this blog a better idea of Armstrong’s great character, behind the scenes, Neil believed that descending and landing from his spacecraft to the moon, rather than the actual moonwalk, was the real accomplishment. Ever the astronaut, Neil looked at the space mission from the perspective of scientific achievement, rather than showmanship.

Whichever way one looks at it, Neil Armstrong will be remembered in history as one of the greatest people to have ever lived on this planet. Personally, I’d like to think that at this moment in time, he is on an even more elevated plane than the moon. For the readers of this blog trying to think of a way to honour his memory, a statement released by his family may help you leap in the right direction.

“For those who may ask what they can do to honour 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.”

Read more by Noman here or follow him on Twitter @pugnate

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Hassaan Anis

    Great article for a great man Nomi bhai! I miss his presence here on earth immensely.

    One point through – 12 people have walked on the moon. Armstrong was the first, but by no means the last. Hence the conspiracy theorists’ point about “no one going back since” is silly. We did all we wanted to on the moon, and thus had no reason to go back after Cernan and Schmidt boarded the Apollo-17 lander and departed for earth.Recommend

  • http://think-islam.blogspot.com PostMan

    Amazing human feat.
    For people who are a bit more interested.. read the journey of Voyager 1. Simply amazing :) It is 17.5 billion miles away..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_1Recommend

  • http://yahoo mariam

    You have said it all but why not this? ”He was handsome and attractive.”Recommend

  • http://www.tusharmz.co.cc Tushar Mohammad Zainuddin

    My heartfelt tribute to Neil: You are a legend. You’d always be remembered as the first man to walk on a world beyond our own. God bless you…Recommend

  • Appollo Hoax

    Not being fooled by the USA doesn’t mean you are a ‘conspiracy’ theorist. If you want to blindly believe everything, then you probably agree with all their foreign policies as well

    I have seen a lot of pictures and videos of the moon landing and I am not convinced
    – If they really beat the world to go to the moon and come back, then why hasn’t Russia or China attempted to do so in 40 years. I mean Russia was the first to reach space, why would they not try to put their Russian flag on the moon ?
    – Apparently there is a vacuum on the moon i.e no air, so how is the flag waving like there’s a nice breeze on the moon
    – The gravity on moon is supposed to be 1/6th of the earth. Have you seen the video of them running and driving their buggy on the moon ? You don’t have to be a genius to notice that its clearly not 1/6th gravity
    – Even with today’s technology, no telescope can find the American flag or any other remains which were left on the moon
    – Have you heard of the Van Allen radiation belt on the way to the moon ? Google it to see how deadly this radiation can be
    – If Mr. Armstrong left a footprint on the moon, shouldn’t there be a huge crater on the surface due to the taking off of the shuttle to return to Earth ??
    – The deposits that they claim to have gotten from the moon, were actually found in Antarctica just a few years before they launched their ‘mission’ (Google it)

    http://www.ufos-aliens.co.uk/cosmicapollo.html (See this if you really think he went to the moon)

    Point is, USA is capable of anything when it comes to deceiving people. You cannot ignore the political motive behind this, to show superiority to Russia at the time. After seeing the sets on Hollywood movies, I believe this was a piece of cake for them. I mean if Bin Laden could have been a CIA agent then why is this unbelievable. We shouldn’t blindly believe them and their ‘godly’ NASA. Not taking credit away from them as they have achieved a lot in terms of aerospace/science but this was a bit too far fetched to fool the world. If a country like the USA went to the moon, they would leave something there that could be seen from telescopes and would remain there for a long long time, not just a flag and a buggy. There is a lot more to it, this mythbusters link of yours doesn’t provide many answers to the many questions

    We are in the 21st century and in a race with technology, do you really think Russia/China cannot go to the moon after 40 years since Armstrong ? If Americans can reach the moon within 8 years after their president announced it, I’m pretty sure Russia or China would have been able to go 43 years after “Mankind’s giant leap to the moon’Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    @Appollo Hoax:

    They left reflectors on the moon. If you find a laser and a telescope powerful enough, you can reflect off of it from Earth. Obviously SOMEONE left it there. Your whole argument is now null and void. BTW, read the article next time. Use the link to he mythbusters episode. Try to read before you debate. It will make you seem less thick next time.

    @mariam:

    Cause I am not attracted to him. Recommend

  • Atif

    One small lie for man. One giant cover-up for mankind.
    It is amazing that when you keep on repeating a lie every day, seemingly sane people start believing it. Recommend

  • Raj Kafir

    @ APPOLO HOAX…Neil Armstrong heard the Azaan on the Moon and converted to Islam. Later he denounced his American citizenship, came to Pakistan and settled in Khairpur. One of his students invented a WATER CAR last month. He quit academics about five years ago and joined politics and rose to the rank of a Minister for Religious Affairs in Pakistan. He was imprisoned for Hajj scam and was bailed out last week. THE “Neil Armstrong” portrayed by US Media was his twin brother. Real Neil Armstrong has dedicated his life to spread Islam which he embraced on the Moon.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    @Atif:

    You are just going to ignore the reflectors they left on the moon of which anyone (including you) can bounce off lasers off, aren’t you?

    @Raj Kafir:

    hahaha hilarious. Recommend

  • Aamir Butt

    For the doubters and the conspiracy theorists, here is a nice discussion on whether we went to the moon or not. Read and decide for yourself but either way, read with an open mind willing to accept the other point of view.

    http://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/1128/has-man-walked-on-the-moonRecommend

  • Hassaan Anis

    @Atif:
    @Appollo Hoax:

    The level of abject stupidity that you people possess is actually bordering on impressive. All of the questions you, and others like you have asked have been answered. Linking to a website with “ufo” and “alien” in the url is not smart. In fact, I dare to say that it is the opposite of smart. It shows that you draw from the blithe, moronic, bottom-of-the-barrel genetic cesspool that incessantly breeds the sub-human creatures that have dragged humanity down for far, far too long. Even your questions are moronic. Have you ever seen a telescope, or tried to determine how they work? Have you ever done the calculations necessary to determine what sort of impact 0.17 Gs have on human motion? I doubt it, because if you ever even attempted to do so, you wouldn’t even ask such inane questions. Enjoy your ignorance, and please, for the love of God, spare humanity eons of suffering and don’t ever breed.

    /rantRecommend

  • abhi

    Nice post Noman! Good that you have covered the conspiracy theory part nicely in your original post. It is surprising that how ill informed keep harping on conspiracy theories without putting the brain. For example Appllo Hoax is talking about Russia, China not going there. China is able to send their first manned mission only now (2012), sending man to moon is far cry. Russia was busy in building space station and they didn’t think sending man on moon is priority. They did send un-manned exploration to moon.

    Also about “– Apparently there is a vacuum on the moon i.e no air, so how is the flag waving like there’s a nice breeze on the moon”— If you look at photographs even casually you will find that flag is not waving in breeze it is hung on a wire. Similarly most of the other things listed are just worded so that they sound logical while actually they don’t have any basis.Recommend

  • Uzair

    Some great posts here, especially the one by Hassaan Anis :) You’ve got your observations spot on mate. Unfortunately it is the superstitious and dogmatic population which is breeding the fastest.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    A friend said something interesting about the people who believe in this being a hoax. I’ll just paste the quote, since it makes a lot of sense:

    They cannot be argued into rationality. Therefore, they need to be ignored. Their existence should not even be acknowledged.Recommend

  • Appollo Hoax

    @Noman Ansari:

    I was expecting a better answer from the writer of the blog himself but oh well
    So the ONE answer you gave to all the different questions is :

    ‘They left reflectors on the moon. If you find a laser and a telescope powerful enough, you can reflect off of it from Earth. Obviously SOMEONE left it there. Your whole argument is now null and void. BTW, read the article next time. Use the link to he mythbusters episode. Try to read before you debate. It will make you seem less thick next time

    Firstly, mirrors can be on the moon WITHOUT a human having to take them there.
    Here is proof for you by the NASA itself about Russian reflectors being found on the surface of the moon — http://news.softpedia.com/news/Soviet-Moon-Mirror-Finally-Identified-140745.shtml

    Also, in that case the NASA recently successfully landed their rovers on mars, so if I go by your logic, ‘SOMEONE’ took it there lol

    If I was as insecure about my opinion as you, I could say your whole argument is null and void, especially since that’s the only rebuttal you gave. And please don’t say “Go look at the mythbusters episode’, I’ve seen it and it’s not all that convincing, and I would expect a bit more than a mythbusters link from the author of this blog

    Rather than answering my questions and providing some logical answers, if you are going to ask me to read before saying anything to make me seem less thick, then I feel sorry for you and for ET for letting people like you write anything and not be able to answer back in an appropriate manner, if you really are that sure and confident about everything you wrote then I would at the least expect better answers that could lead to a debate

    I’ll leave you with another link which raises some legitimate points, most not all
    http://www.darkgovernment.com/moon.html

    @Hassaan Anis:

    Buddy stop trying to use fancy words and go look through that ‘ufo’ ‘alien’ website I posted and the many others available on the internet, and if you can provide me answers to the questions pointed out by the ‘conspiracy theorists’ then there is a debate. There is no harm in finding out the truth and not blindly believing everything we are told.

    I’m not saying I’m “Mr. Know it All” and this didn’t happen, I’m just saying I highly doubt itRecommend

  • John B

    @Appollo Hoax:
    I am not worried about you since you are already brain dead. But I am beginning to worry about the those who recommended your posting.

    If ever you get a chance , go and see the spent Saturn V rockets that are on display in Huntsville, Alabama to comprehend the mega massive incomprehensible super rockets that were needed for the Apollo missions.

    The cost of manned moon landing is prohibitive even for US at that time. The rockets needed for manned moon landing are not the same as in unmanned missions. Recommend

  • Confused

    This comments section is sure to have to types of annoying commenters:
    1) Those who claim he was secretly muslim after hearing azaan on moon.
    2) Those who claim this was a hoax and NASA played us.Recommend

  • Appollo Hoax

    @John B:

    Mr. John, leave the worries aside and tell me yourself, other than going to Huntsville, Alabama did your comment answer ANY of the questions I have been raising in my previous two posts?

    If I am as brain dead as you are so sure I am, why don’t you provide some solid information to counter whatever I have said and claimed previously. Let’s not get emotional and divert from the discussion, thanksRecommend

  • Hassaan Anis

    @Appollo Hoax:

    Buddy, if anything, my “fancy words” indicate that I have chosen to spend my time broadening my horizons and educating myself about the world around me, while you chose to lower our collective IQ with every thought that crossed your mind. There is no debate to be had here, because, as I mentioned, the answers to all your questions exist, and are readily available. If you don’t believe the word of physicists, astronomers and astronauts — all of whom are people of a much higher caliber and reputability than you are — then even if I present irrefutable proof to you, you will simply ignore it or dismiss it, and choose to further indulge in your ignorance, the same way you did with the mythbusters evidence. Would you walk into a chemistry lab and scoff at a chemist’s explanation of the Hall-Heroult process? Or doubt him if he told you he demonstrated it in a lab 4 years ago? Apply your logic. Apply reason. No need to believe anything anyone tells you on faith. Peruse the evidence they provide, and know that there are men who know more than you do. Goodbye.Recommend

  • Appollo Hoax

    @Hassaab Anis:

    In both your comments, all you have done is just dissed my IQ and STILL have not provided any answers to even one of the claims which create doubts about the whole Appollo mission. I mean if you are all that smart and have such a sharp IQ then the least you can do is provide some answer/rebuttal that would be convincing.

    It is not about the ‘fancy words’ you are so proud of after spending your time broadening your horizons and educating yourself about the world around you, it is about the substance in your argument.

    And btw Mr. genius, go look it up on Google and youtube and see for yourself that there are some physicists and astronomers who also refute this claim and in fact that is where I got my information from. And it’s quite interesting how you and the author of this blog have gotten so defensive when I have questioned your core beliefs. I mean its okay to question the NASA and the USA, its not going to be the end of the world.

    There can always be two sides to a story and two sides in an debate/argument. I have provided the reasons/websites/youtube videos to support my argument. What have you provided me ? Just one mythbusters link, which definitely doesn’t address all the doubts and I’m sure you can do better than that if you really are as smart as you’re claiming to be

    ‘Entertaining a thought without accepting it is the sign of an educated mind’ – Aristotle

    Try it

    And btw, the author of this blog responded to me by saying I should do the laser test myself to get proof that there are reflectors left on the moon. I know there are reflectors on the surface of the moon and I also posted an article which says NASA confirms it found russian reflectors on the moon which were sent back in the 70’s. So that didn’t make any sense at all and just showed me how much due diligence has been done by the author before writing such a piece, he was clearly not prepared for any questions haha.Recommend

  • hassan

    I know Appollo Hoax; he also believes…

    — that Osama was never found and killed in Pakistan. He asks “Where are the photographs of the dead body ?”

    — that Sri Lankan cricketers were attacked by RAW agents. He believes that Indians are powerful enough to brainwash Muslims into working for them.

    —that a Muslim will not kill another Muslim. All the bomb blasts and beheadings and suicide missions…these are done by agents of RAW and MOSSAD, just to bring bad name to Pakistan.

    —that Water Car is a great idea. He says, “How can you trash the idea without even seeing it in action ?” The water car claim makes complete mockery of science does not matter to him. What matters is the Pakistani pride.

    —that Pakistani players trapped in the sting are fully innocent. He says it was the BCCI’s idea to trap these match winning players and get them out of cricket.

    —that the semi-final of the world cup cricket 2012 was Fixed. Gilani wanted Manmohan Singh to drop the Mumbai 26/11 demands in exchange for Pak players helping India win the high voltage semi final. Otherwise, no way our team could have lost.

    —that Pak won all the wars with India.He says India has been the aggressor on all occasion and each time, Pak dealt a heavy, crippling blow to the Indian army.

    People like Appollo Hoax abound all over Pakistan. You can see him next seat in your bus, in your office and in your class. Most of Pakistanis in Dubai, I have noticed, are Appollo Hoax clones.

    PS: A study published in 2012 says: a guy who believes in one conspiracy theory is more likely to believe in multiple such conspiracies frequently even when one conspiracy contradicts the other. Simply put, if you believe in one, you’ll believe in a lot more. Recommend

  • Hassaan Anis

    @Appollo Hoax:

    You seem to be ignoring the fact that I told you to go seek answers for yourself, because the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim that goes against general consensus – you should seek out the answers that I clearly told you are there. Also, Agha Waqar claims to be an engineer, that doesn’t preclude him from being a fraud. Similarly, there are many astronomers and physicists who fall into that category. Why don’t you ask the more prominent and celebrated ones? Or are they also, in your delusional universe, in on the conspiracy?

    The crux of my argument lies in common sense, something I sense conspiracy theorists seem to lack. The simple rule of any secret is this: The more people that are privy to a conspiracy, the less likely the conspiracy is to be true. The Apollo missions involved the participation of at least 3 countries, and over 400,000 people. If you only count the people in the mission task-forces, in the white house, state department and radio/imagery observatories, that number still measures in the thousands. If all 6 apollo missions that involved men who walked on the moon were faked, there is no possible way this conspiracy would not have been outed by one of the thousands who were privy to the truth. Also take into account the fact that Armstrong and Aldrin were not the last people to walk on the moon. 10 other NASA astronauts walked, skipped, hopped, played golf, and drove on the moon after them.

    If you really want specific answers to your questions, here is a short version.

    The Russian N-1 extra orbital launch vehicle program was an utter disaster. Go read about it. The Americans beat them to the moon with the Saturn-V, and once they did, there was no point in going up – considering how prohibitively expensive and objectively useless it was in the bigger picture. The Russians put their budget towards Salyut-1, the first space station. A much more useful achievement in the space race all things considered. The expensiveness and uselessness of a manned trip to the moon is why no other country thought it practical to go up there after twelve Americans had already been.
    The flag is moving because there is no atmosphere on the moon. If the flag is moved in any way (e.g. while putting it into the ground) it will keep moving until an external force acts on it to stop it (Newton’s first law). Since there is no atmosphere, there is no air resistance, since there is no air resistance, the flag keeps moving. QED.
    Simple calculations can be done, and have been done, (I am not going to do them here, look them up), to describe human and vehicular motion at 0.17 G. The footage from the moon correlates perfectly with these calculations. You have never experienced that level of gravity, thus anything you claim about it is irrelevant and incorrect unless you do the math.
    Several images have been taken of multiple Apollo landing sites using the LRO and the Hubble Space Telescope. The limited resolving power of earth based telescopes and the optical interference of our atmosphere makes it highly improbable to resolve images capable of displaying the Apollo landing sites.
    The astronauts suffered low exposure in the Van Allen belts due to the short period of time spent flying through them in the heavily-shielded Command Module. In fact, the astronauts’ overall exposure was dominated by solar particles once outside the earth’s magnetic field. The total radiation received by the astronauts varied from mission to mission but was measured to be between 0.16 and 1.14 rads, much less than the standard of five rem per year set by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission for people who work with radioactivity. (Source: Bailey, J. Vernon. “Radiation Protection and Instrumentation“. Biomedical Results of Apollo.)
    This link leads to my favorite and most conclusive mathematical demonstration of why a massive crater would not be formed by the Lunar Lander’s EDL thrusters.
    Dude.. Lunar Meteorites. They’re nothing new. The moon-rocks found in Antarctica were from the moon, because lunar meteorites, however rare, do exist. That does not, by any means, prove that the rocks brought back on the Apollo missions were not from the moon.

    No matter how much you may want to fight it, science can not be fooled. Not for very long at least. Please, educate yourself. Learn to appreciate man’s accomplishments, and let them inspire you to reach for greater pursuits. Aristotle would smack you over the head for quoting him like that. He would be the first one to let the science talk to the veracity of the matter. As a physicist and avid novice astronomer, my conviction is based on science, and not on the nationality of the people involved in making that science happen.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/pugnate Noman Ansari

    Pwned by Hassan. Well done. Recommend