Neil Armstrong Rembered at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
Family, friends and those who worked along side Neil Armstrong paid tribute to the Apollo 11 commander at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Thursday and dedicated a native Live Oak to his memory.
The first human to step to the surface of another planetary body died Aug. 25, 2012 in Cincinnati following heart surgery. The former naval aviator was buried at sea on Sept. 24, 2012.
During the latest in a series of national tributes, Armstrong was remembered for his courage, quiet competence and a sustained desire to see his countrymen push back the frontiers of space. The mature Live Oak resides in the Astronaut Memorial Grove near the entrance to the space center.
“The tree we dedicate today not only keeps our memories of Neil alive, it keeps his and our dreams alive,” said Ellen Ochoa, Johnson’s director and host for the services. “It’s not only a living reminder of what we have accomplished, but it’s also a reminder of what we must do.”
A plaque at the base of the tree is accompanied by a lunar boot print fashioned from a cement block by Houston area Boy Scouts.
“I will be eternally grateful to be so fortunate for my opportunity to fly to the moon and land under the command of Neil Armstrong, perhaps the best test pilot America has ever seen and the epitome of a space man,” Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11′s lunar module pilot, told the gathering.
Aldrin followed Armstrong to the moon’s surface soon after their July 20, 1969 landing. A global live television audience estimated at more than 500 million viewers watched the two astronauts from the Earth.
“He was definitely the right choice to be the commander of the first lunar landing,” said Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 command module pilot. “He was the best.”
Collins orbited the moon in the Columbia module while Armstrong and Aldrin spend just under a day in and outside the Apollo 11 Eagle lander on the lunar surface.
Armstrong’s two sons, Rick and Mark, were among those from Armstrong’s family at the memorial. Rick Armstrong spoke of his father’s desire to be buried at sea.
“The down side, of course, is there is no memorial that can be easily visited,” he said. “This Live Oak is a simple, elegant solution to that problem, a place where my family can come, or I can bring my kids when they are especially missing their grandpa Neil.”