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Astronaut’s passing reminds us of the power in shared commitment and sacrifice

The Wilmington Star News has a nice tribute to the late Neil Armstrong that’s worth a read this morning. As the editorial noted:

“His death on Saturday at age 82 took those of us who remember that moment back to our living rooms, as we sat contemplating the enormity of the achievement we had just witnessed.

Armstrong’s feat represented more than a mission to send a spacecraft to the moon. The space program at its peak represented the American spirit of adventure, the need to find out more about our universe and, as a result, our own planet – and ourselves.”

Armstrong’s passing should also serve to remind us of a time in which Americans successfully pulled together for a common, public purpose — a time in which it wasn’t unfashionable to talk about personal sacrifice for the common good beyond military service and in which it could be okay for macho men to support public institutions that did not make them or their friends wealthy.

One of the main reasons that Armstrong’s first step on the moon resonated so deeply with most of the Americans alive on July 20, 1969 was not because of (as it might be today) our desire to celebrate one person or to anoint a new celebrity; it was because so many of us felt in some way that we has played a small part in helping Armstrong get onto that ladder he descended to the lunar surface. We had watched the space program on TV, shared in its successes and tragedies and felt the common public commitment to fulfill a murdered president’s promise that we would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.

In the years ahead, it would be a fitting tribute to Armstrong and the other heroes of the space program if Americans put aside some of their cynicism and morbid attachment to the individual accumulation of money and things and rediscovered their capacity for shared sacrifice in support of great public accomplishments that advance the common good.    

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Jack

    August 28, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I was in Vietnam when Armstrong walked on the moon and therefore the importance of that moment was lost on me. My attention was on other things. But coming of age during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs was a magical time. Men were launching into space and what could be more exciting than that? James Bond wasn’t that cool.

    I remember clearly Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight, John Glenn’s orbits around the earth and the voice of Jules Bergman and so much more.

  2. Frank Burns

    August 28, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    Sadly this agency has fallen on hard times as Obama has outsourced many of it’s missions to the Russians. And their focus is Muslim outreach. http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2010/0714/NASA-chief-says-agency-s-goal-is-Muslim-outreach-forgets-to-mention-space

  3. a small step. a giant leap. | bokehlutheran

    August 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    [...] read a great article today reflecting on Armstrong’s achievement and the reason that it still resonates so [...]