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San Diego remembers Neil Armstrong's legacy

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  • Neil Armstrong, 1st man on the moon, dies

    Neil Armstrong, 1st man on the moon, dies

    Saturday, August 25 2012 5:56 PM EDT2012-08-25 21:56:00 GMT
    Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made "one giant leap for mankind" with a small step on to the moon.More >>
    Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made "one giant leap for mankind" with a small step on to the moon. The modest man who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter million miles away has died.More >>

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The death of astronaut Neil Armstrong -- the first person to walk on the moon -- resonated in the San Diego area, it was reported Saturday.

Commander of the July 1969 Apollo 11 space mission in which he and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon, the reclusive Armstrong died Saturday at age 82 from complications of heart bypass surgery, his family said.

Some local reactions to the news were printed in Saturday's San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper sharing their views on the man and his place in history.

Armstrong was remembered in the story as a familiar figure in San Diego, having been a frequent visitor to the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park, where he participated in programs celebrating the lunar landing.

"(Armstrong) was a very humble guy who was very aware of his place in history," museum Director Francis French was quoted as saying. "He recognized that the landing was an event, it wasn't about him."

Michael Ravine, chief camera engineer at Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, agreed with French's take on Armstrong's modesty.

"I had the impression that Armstrong was like (Charles) Lindbergh," Ravine told the U-T. "He was reserved, not interested in promoting himself, per se. He focused on the historic weight of what happened."

Cory Cromwell -- who worked with Armstrong on a TV production shot at the Balboa Park museum -- called the space hero a man who preferred to stay out of the limelight.

"Neil was a regular guy, very easy to talk to," Cromwell said. "But he was very uncomfortable being a celebrity. He would do anything to avoid it."

Armstrong was publicity shy, agreed Dan McKinnon of Pacific Beach, a former Navy pilot who knew him.

"He stopped signing autographs when he found out they were being sold for a lot of money," McKinnon said in the story. "He'd sign the name Neil for friends. But he felt that the government paid for his time in the space program and that it wouldn't be right to try to make a lot of money off of it."

Allen Shafter, chair of the astronomy department at San Diego State University, said Armstrong's accomplishments were incomparable.

"The first walk on the moon was an amazing step forward for science in the United States, and represents arguably the greatest achievement of the 20th century in space exploration," Shafter said.

Mark Lane, director at the Palomar College Planetarium in San Marcos, said Armstrong and his accomplishments were a big reason for his career choice.

"I was only 36 hours old when Armstrong walked on the moon, but he would later become a big reason that I got into astronomy," Lane told the newspaper. "He was very inspiring. I've read that he didn't give autographs because he didn't consider the moon landing to be one man's accomplishment, but that of a team. But he does personify my idea of a hero."

"My guess is that we'll look up and see a tear falling from the cheek of the man in the moon," said Dennis Mammana, an astronomy writer, lecturer and sky photographer who lives in Borrego Springs. "Armstrong was a true pioneer and a true hero."

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