Neil Armstrong, who in 1969 captured the attention of millions of television viewers and the world who took ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ when he became the first man to set foot on the moon died Saturday at age 82, from complications due to heart surgery Armstrong had undergone in July. At the time of the Apollo 11 shuttle manned by Armstrong and fellow pilots Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins had launched into the cosmos, the world was in upheaval. The Soviet Union had crushed the ‘Prague Spring’ in Czechoslovakia, America was bogged down in an increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam, and the geopolitical scene in the Middle East was being reshaped by the Cold War. In the streets and on the college campuses where youth gave voice to long simmering grievances and called for political freedom in Spain and Czechoslovakia, civil rights, and an end to racial discrimination, as police forces and demonstrators clashed. Crime was increasing in the U.S, leaders were being struck down by the bullets of assassin and a generation was dancing to a new beat at Woodstock.
In exchange for idealism and the promise for a better world, it seemed the post war calm had given way to chaos. But on July 20, 1969, 44 million people from all sides of these clashes for a moment sat in awe and wonder, as they watched Armstrong emerge from the space capsule and extend the reach of me to a new frontier. It was a small piece of hope and progress in what seemed to be an otherwise unruly age.He reminded us that even in a time of divisions, Americans and the world could be united not just in grief over bloodshed, but in marveling at mankind’s achievements.