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  What establishes Neil Armstrong a hero? (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   What establishes Neil Armstrong a hero?
Betsy
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posted 07-16-2008 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is my first time posting, but I've been lurking for awhile now. I'd love to hear your thoughts on something that I've been wondering about. I'm currently reading First Man and am enjoying it very much. I apologize if the following is a tad long-winded:

Neil Armstrong is considered a great astronaut, a great man and overall a genuine American hero. His place in history was secured the moment he set foot on the moon, but I think whomever had been first on the Moon would have been remembered for as long as humans exist. It seems to me that NA is regarded as a hero for more than just the fact that he was the First Man. He's regarded as a hero because of the strength of his personal qualities: innate decency, integrity and modesty just to name a few.

In reading his biography and doing general research on the web, I'm floored by NA's refusal to grab the spotlight for himself, which he could easily do. Instead, he deflects the spotlight onto his colleagues and others who worked extremely hard to put men on the Moon. When he brushes his accomplishment aside, its not false modesty. He genuinely does not see himself as having done anything particularly special. What a unique, unusual and remarkable man NA is.

So, I guess my question for you all is: Is Neil Armstrong a hero because he was the first to step foot on the Moon or because of how he handled that responsibility? My gut feeling is the latter. His name was written in the history books when he took that first step, but it was the way he handled his fame (and has handled it since) that made him a hero. Would we think of the him in the light we do today had he been an overall jerk or if he was someone that started shilling for toothpaste, deodorant and other products on tv, using fame as a means to making millions of dollars? I suspect if that were the case, NA would be considered an icon and that's about it. To my mind, a hero suggests something much more substantial, someone who is worthy of being looked up to (and not many fall under that category) and admired. Whatever qualities a genuine hero, an honestly great man, needs to have, NA seems to have in spades.

What do you all think? Id love to hear from you. Also, what is your definition of a hero?

thank you!

carmelo
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posted 07-16-2008 09:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For Gemini-8.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-16-2008 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Betsy:
Would we think of the him in the light we do today had he been an overall jerk or if he was someone that started shilling for toothpaste, deodorant and other products on tv, using fame as a means to making millions of dollars?
I strongly doubt that astronauts' hero status, in general, is based on individual personalities or character traits. I suspect that for most part, astronauts are heroic because they put their own lives at risk for the sake of the greater good.

More importantly, unlike soldiers, fireman, police, etc., astronauts take part in an enviable and desirable activity: pursuing and furthering knowledge. All things being equal, no one wants war, fire or crime to continue, but exploration will always be of merit.

With regards to Armstrong specifically, his heroism is first and foremost as an astronaut (as Carmelo succinctly implies). His fame comes from being "first man" but were he not, he would still be considered a hero by many.

And as I can't think of a single early-era astronaut who the public singles out in less than heroic terms, I think its clear that individual personality and character matters little to the masses.

Spacepsycho
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posted 07-16-2008 12:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacepsycho   Click Here to Email Spacepsycho     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Neil Armstrong body of work establishes him as a hero.

Being a Korean War combat pilot, test pilot, X-15 engineer, inventor & pilot, saved the Gemini 8 mission, LLTV program, Apollo 11, educator, engineer, a pilots pilot and a truly humble human being. He's the first one to remind anyone that his Apollo 11 selection was luck and that there were 400,000 other people working to put a man on the moon.

Don't forget, besides Frank Borman & James McDivitt, NA was only 1 of 3 rookies to command a mission. Let's face it, all of the guys from that era, who qualified and endured the selection process were heros.

Of course NA is considered a "hero" by the public for Apollo 11, but in truth, it's his entire career and the way he's conducted himself after the flight that qualifies him as a hero.

He is extremely gracious to everyone who approaches. He'll take a photo, answer a question (low tolerance for stupid questions, as most like him are) and will happily take a few minutes to talk.

After seeing NA approached every 1-2 minutes for a photo, autograph or a handshake, while eating dinner no less, I would never want to change places with him.

Ray

Betsy
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posted 07-16-2008 05:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the replies, and for the change of title. I didn't like my boring one, but I couldn't think of anything better.

I didn't mean to give short shrift to any of NA's other accomplishments. I'm only just now learning about them myself - of course the general public will only know him (unfortunately) for Apollo 11.

Ray, I agree in particular with your post......I feel that way about NA, but it's also how I feel in general. I personally couldn't look up to someone who is arrogant, rude to people or has a habit of making a public spectacle of himself. I could acknowledge his greatness in his field of endeavor, but I could never call him a hero or have any kind of warm feeling towards him.

I just recently watched In the Shadow of the Moon (brilliant, by the way. I felt very patriotic after watching it) and I just loved every one of those astronauts. Not only were they heroes in their jobs, but they all seem like terrific people, people I would want to talk to (if I could get my tongue untied). I was fascinated by everything they had to say.

Ray, again - I'll go back to you. A special burden has been placed on Neil because of Apollo 11 and he has handled it incredibly well (and much of this praise comes from his fellow astronauts). I've seen on this board, and elsewhere, people would would have preferred another, more publicity-oriented astronaut, to be the first man on the moon. However, it's all moot as that's not how history was written. Additionally, we don't have any idea how things would have played out post-Apollo if someone else had commanded that mission. Maybe he would have "cheapened" (as I've seen it called before) the moon landing by playing on his fame and becoming an advertising pitch man (which, IMO, would be extremely tacky). Maybe he would have toured around the world with his moon rocks.....Of course, another commander may have handled fame just as well as Neil, but we will never know.

andrewcli
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posted 07-16-2008 05:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for andrewcli   Click Here to Email andrewcli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is something I think everybody would enjoy seeing.

Andrew

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-16-2008 06:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Andrew, you read my mind. Not that there's anything wrong with Armstrong doing (or not doing) commercials.

One of the most popular "heroes" among the Gen X/Y generation was Michael Jordan. Growing up, there was no more a "must-have" item than a pair of Nike Air Jordans. Everyone wanted to be like Mike and his hero status was helped by it.

Arguments as to why Michael Jordan is not a hero aside, I'm not sure Rick Searfoss' reputation was hurt any by recently appearing in a VW commercial or for that matter, Wally Schirra shilling for Actifed. I personally think they're cooler for it.

I respect Armstrong's own desire to live his life as he sees fit, but had the theoretical first man on the Moon returned to Earth and gone commercial, especially during the early 1980s when such celebrity endorsement deals were most in vogue, it might have led to the youth of that day looking to an astronaut as they did Michael Jordan.

Spacepsycho
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posted 07-16-2008 07:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Spacepsycho   Click Here to Email Spacepsycho     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Betsy,

I think that many of us who are interested in manned space exploration, are a little disappointed by Neil Armstrong's lack of lobbying of those who control NASA's purse strings. Being who he is, there is a certain status and respect he enjoys just by his presence or lending his name to a cause.

When the Chinese are spending over $1 BILLION dollars each year to lobby our congress, senate and those who represent each state, in order to influence the US law and policy making bodies, it's obvious that you must lobby to get your budget increased.

Because Neil is not an outgoing or gregarous personality like Buzz or Cernan, many believe he shunned or neglected to use this fame to further the aims of the space program. Whether or not that's his job is another arguement that can be made.

Look at Tom Stafford, he's made numerous appearances in front of Congress to support, defend and promote increasing NASA's budget. He's explaining to the people who give out the money, that space exploration is a worthy endeavor. If you want to see how one astronaut can influence congress, look at Frank Borman when he was instrumental in getting congress off of NASA's gonads and get back to the job of going to the moon.

I belive had Neil been more visible and vocal in extolling the incredible advances brought to the world as a result of the space program, the public and congress would view the space program in an entirely different light.

Right now, as Wanda Sikes puts it, "NASA is welfare for smart people". That's how the public views our space program and there are millions who would happily close all space exploration, to give that money to fund welfare or entitlements. Since 1964 this country has transfered over $10 TRILLION dollars in wealth to welfare, entitlements, social programs and other gov't programs designed to end poverty and virtually every penny has been a complete waste or resources, IMHO.

I also think that NASA needs a good PR firm to let the average citizen know that NASA is not throwing money down the drain and that the space program is the only federal gov't program that has provided a return on the money invested.

As far as astronauts doing commercials, I don't have a problem. Let's face it, these guys didn't make much money working for the gov't, so why not cash in, as long as it's not tasteless. After what these guys have given to our country, I think they deserve it.

As far as Rick Searfoss doing a commercial, I was thrilled to see him on TV. He is a class act 110% and having had the pleasure of talking with him at length at many events, I was very happy for him.

Ray

MCroft04
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posted 07-16-2008 07:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Welcome. IMO once any of the astronauts made the decision to ride rockets for the American cause, they became heroes. Their unique personalities may distinguish them, but I don't see NA being more of a hero then Pete Conrad or Gene Cernan or Al Shepard or Walt Cunningham, etc, etc.

Betsy
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posted 07-16-2008 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You guys all make great points. However, I think I remember someone making a point on this board (not sure when) that possibly the other astronauts were somewhat freed to do "their thing" (like commercials) because they didn't have that First Man association that Armstrong did. I remember reading a quote from Cernan saying that he can't think of another person (including himself) that could have handed the responsibility of being First Man with the dignity (etc...I don't remember the rest of the quote) that NA has. Alan Bean said basically the same thing in In the Shadow of the Moon. Perhaps there's an unspoken acknowledgment that the First Man would need to be different (more conservative) in his dealings post-flight than anyone else would have to be. If I saw NA in a commercial, I admit I'd probably think it cool (depending on what it was), but in pondering it further, I also admit that I wouldn't want to see him all over the place as a pitchman.

I'm not sure the Michael Jordan comparison works, Robert, because being a basketball player pales in comparison to being an astronaut. I sure don't judge MJ and it frankly doesn't matter to me if he wants to make more $$$$$ by putting his name on sneakers, but in my gut, I'm not sure I want NA (or any astronaut for that matter) to be selling themselves for any price. Admittedly, prior to tonight, this is not something I've given much thought to. I have to ponder this further.

Ray - I understand your points and to a degree, I can understand why space fans would want Neil to promote NASA somewhat more aggressively than he does because his is the one name that will get anyone's attention. I don't judge him for that because it's his life and he needs to do what makes him happy. I admire him for, as I've read many times, living life on his own terms. Plus, apparently he has done work in support of NASA.

Unlike the majority (or frankly, all of you, LOL) I come to this board as a person who is interested in space, space history, etc....., but with very little knowledge beyond that which the general public may now. I've gotten quite the education just lurking here, lol. Anyhow, because of this, I think maybe I can try and represent the general public's point of view here. I can tell you that (and maybe I should be ashamed of this) that I have had very little interest in the recent Space Shuttle mission (excluding the Challenger - I was in high school in 1986 and hadn't yet developed much interest in space, period). In thinking about it, possibly I have had little interest because it doesn't seem exciting to me. I am thrilled by our explorations of Mars, Saturn, etc....with rovers and the like -that to me is incredible (to say the least). I suspect that most people would be psyched by missions to other planets (or maybe the Moon again, not sure), but perhaps they just view what's going on in space now (and I admit I'm not up to date on what we are doing) as mundane (boy, have we come a long way. Doing anything in space should never be classified as mundane - it's dangerous work). So, to sum up, the public may not be all that excited until actual further space exploration becomes a reality. I'm not sure there is anything Neil could do about that.......However, hasn't he recently come out strongly supporting further ventures to Mars?

Betsy
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posted 07-16-2008 08:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by andrewcli:
Here is something I think everybody would enjoy seeing.
Andrew, thanks! I trust Neil - those Chryslers must be good cars. Where can I buy one? LOL

Betsy
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posted 07-16-2008 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MCroft04:
Welcome. IMO once any of the astronauts made the decision to ride rockets for the American cause, they became heroes.
MCroft, thanks!

All of these men (and women) are special people just simply for the fact that they put their lives on the line in order to do something they love and to advance humanity's knowledge. However fair or unfair it is,though, NA's name is the one that people will remember. I know for me, there's still a bit of a "wow" factor involved. Frankly, in reading his bio and doing my other research, I think what makes Neil special is that he does not think himself special. Given the demands of fame imposed upon him, I'm not sure how he's kept his sanity. It would have been extraordinarily easy for him to soak up the spotlight; in doing so, the other astronauts would have been relegated to second class citizens (not to mention the 400,000 or so people who worked on Apollo). To have the biggest name in the business one of the most famous men of all time, not just shy away from the spotlight but try to shine it on those who also deserve it - that to me is pretty darn remarkable. Offhand, I just can't think of anyone who is as humble about his accomplishments as NA.

Regardless of all the personal qualities I admire about NA, I have to say that I get the biggest kick out of him being professionally as cool as ice, completely unflappable in a crisis.

andrewcli
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posted 07-16-2008 08:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for andrewcli   Click Here to Email andrewcli     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess I'm getting nostalgic here on the 39th anniversary of Apollo 11.

If you liked Neil's commercial, here's Buzz and Volkswagen.

Enjoy!

MCroft04
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posted 07-16-2008 08:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Betsy, Great discussion; I like your meddle! But let's imagine for a moment that the Apollo 10 mission failed to accomplish it's objectives and then Apollo 11 had to repeat that mission and therefore Apollo 12 made the first landing. We'd all be speaking of the hero Pete Conrad. While I have tremendous respect for NA (and Buzz too as they landed at the same time), he was a great man just at the right place at the right time.

SpaceCat
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posted 07-16-2008 09:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceCat     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'd like to add a few ideas on heroism in general---

"Hero," like "love," is a simple four-letter word with a vast array of meanings. Certainly, there is heroism in the common person who works a thankless 9 to 5 job for decades in order to provide for a family; in the actions of police officers, firefighters or military people who take risks for the benefit of others..... and there are countless other examples.

With regard to astronauts- yes, they are heros for riding a rocket into space for the cause of knowledge and/or their country-- and more often than not, they are accomplishing something in their mission that has never been done before. That's a different kind of heroism than that of a fireman making a rescue in a burning building- not greater or lesser, but different. Whether that "first" is a certain maneuver in a new spacecraft or a step on the moon- the heroism of facing unknowns carries a special 'nobility' for those of us who follow spaceflight and its history.

Betsy
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posted 07-16-2008 10:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi MCroft

Of course you're right...but that's not how history played out. It's nothing against Pete Conrad or anyone else - and I definitely (in case it came across otherwise) was not intending to glorify NA at the expense of anyone else (all these men earned their hero status). If things had played out differently, I would probably be posting the same question (or something similar) about Conrad, Lovell, or whomever. Since history has already been written, I tend not to speculate. We can only go by what has happened.

Not having been alive at the time of Apollo 11 (sigh), I've grown up with Neil Armstrong as an icon and hero of the 20th century. It's why I went "wow!" when I saw him in When We Left the Earth. That's when I found out that an authorized biography had been written and, again, that was another "wow". For all my life (not that I have followed NASA, but I just love learning about space and the Universe in general), when I heard about Neil, it was basically that he didn't speak to anyone, that he was a recluse, etc... Those descriptions of him actually do a serious disservice to him. The truth about his fascinating life is so much more interesting than what the general media portrays, but then, I'm no fan of the media. We all have our favorites - I'm probably drawn to Neil because I am not a gregarious personality myself. With friends, yes, but I'm awkward or shy around strangers. I really resent the assumption that private/shy people are aloof, but that's the sterotype we have to live with and that's what Neil has had to live with (though he seems to be doing just fine). So, I partly identify with him because of this. I'm frankly glad to read that he is a genuinely good man in addition to being a great man (there's a difference) and a hero because I like to emotionally bond with the people I read about.

I'd also like to say that I have been soooo impressed by all of the astronauts I have seen interviewed on various programs (like In the Shadow of the Moon, When We Left, etc.). In no particular order:

Gene Cernan - I can't pinpoint it, I just like this guy. He's very articulate, amongst other things.

Alan Bean - I never heard of this guy until recently, but I love him. He's just seems so friendly and happy, plus I think it's fantastic that he's got a 2nd career as an artist. The fact that he thought to use his old Moon mission stuff as part of his art is wonderful.......I love hearing him tell stories.

Charlie Duke - Same as Alan - he's got that wonderful Southern drawl and just an overall tremendously likeable quality.

Jim Lovell - I think ever since I saw Apollo 13, I sort idolize him. What he, Haise and Sweigert did on that mission is truly heroic. Lovell is a wonderful speaker and he just comes across as a regular guy.

Buzz - Not sure what to say about him. He always seemed like a fun guy(plus, Buzz is a cool name), but I wasn't impressed by his jockeying to be first on the moon. It's undignified and really unbecoming. However, it's been 40 years, the man is in his 70's and he seems to be extremely enthusiastic. I like him - I'm not sure he's my favorite, but he earned bonus points for punching that Moon Hoaxer who stalked him.

Michael Collins - I knew next to nothing about him. When I started watching "In the Shadow", I thought it was Mark Collins I was watching. When I realized it was Mike Collins, I thought "how cool" - it ends up he's a funny guy. I loved hearing him speak and he seems like a great guy.

Dave Scott - only heard him a little, but he seems like a neat guy. The fact that he (and not just Neil) was able to bring Gemini 8 home through all those problems - that's all to his credit. Seems like a reliable guy to have on a crew.

John Young - I didn't hear from him too much, but it sounds like he has a dry wit, which I always love.

Betsy
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posted 07-16-2008 10:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Space Cat, great post. You're so right -and the more I think about these men, the more I have to admire them. There are no such things as little problems in space - any such one could possibly lead to catastrophe. I think it was Lovell who said (I guess it was in a response to question, about Apollo 13) that they (the crew) could have freaked out for 10 minutes.......and then they would still be in the same position. The thing to do was to just deal wtih the situation. This isn't at all the exact quote, but the point remains. These are all amazing men...

Lou Chinal
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posted 07-17-2008 01:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I ran into Neil Armstrong in a small airport in the midwest in the 1980's.

There was no talk of Apollo 11, no mention of Gemini 8, no X-15 stories. Just two pilots talking about a weather front moving in. He spoke for about 5 minutes (I did a lot of listing) about the route I should take. I climbed back into my cessna with the sectional he had just marked. Neil Armstrong had just shown me the way home.

Neil Armstrong is a class act.

-Lou

robsouth
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posted 07-17-2008 06:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
All the astronauts are heroes, Armstrong is no more of a hero than Stafford or Young, he is just famous for being first to walk on the moon. I think others could have been better choices as the first man on the moon, Conrad, Lovell, Borman to name just three. Whereas Aldrin wears his moonwalk like a flashy coat willing to discuss it and try to really convey what it felt like, Armstrong at times seems to want to distance himself from it. Whenever there is a documentary made of Apollo he never wants to take part. Some may see his reserve as admirable but even he has made commercials so he's not above trading on his astronaut status. He's got a lot of great qualities and he is a hero for Apollo 11 and Gemini 8 but as first man on the moon, IMO, others could have done a better post landing job of conveying the experience to those of us that will never go.

Betsy
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posted 07-17-2008 07:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
We can agree to disagree, Rob. The job of the commander of Apollo 11 was to land on the moon and return safely. Armstrong did just that, so IMO, I don't see how he could have done his job better. If NASA was so interested in having a better PR guy on the Moon, then I imagine they would have ticketed Neil for an earlier mission that clearly had no chance for a lunar landing. Is it your opinion that Buzz would have been a better choice because he's a more energetic supporter of space exploration? Given his undignified self-promotion in trying to be the first on the Moon, I beg to differ. Also, as big a name as NA is, I don't quite see why he should take on the majority of the responsibility of publicizing the space program. If the public is not to keen on NASA and the space program anymore, then NASA and the government should take the blame for that.

NA made one commercial that I am aware of. I probably should have been more specific and stated that I wouldn't think it tasteful for him (or any First Man, had it not been NA) to have done a bunch of commercials, shilling different products.

As to NA distancing himself from Apollo 11, from all accounts, this has to do with the fact that he honestly does not believe that he did anything more special than anyone else. He knows that the lion's share of the glory would always go to him and he doesn't want any part of that. He always seems to try to give credit to others when the media and the public are otherwise inclined. I think that's very admirable. If it then comes off as distancing himself from Apollo, so be it. While I would love to hear more from him, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the other astronauts tell us their stories.

I find it interesting that there seems to be so many who feel Neil was not the right man for the job (based on his personality and other things that have nothing to do with the mission itself). I didn't intend for this topic to devolve into that subject as that has been done to death and no one is going to change anyone's mind.

Rob, I don't agree with the majority of what you wrote, but I do thank you for replying!

Betsy
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posted 07-17-2008 07:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lou, that's a neat story. I enjoy hearing encounters that people have with Neil or any of the astronauts. The lives they have lead.....wow!

robsouth
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posted 07-17-2008 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Betsy. IMO the first man to walk on the moon is a position that carries a lot of weight and probably won't be surpassed until a boot scuffs the Martian dust for the first time. In the role of first man on the moon Armstrong has been dignified and a great example of modesty, always saying that it was a team effort. He comes across as shy with a dislike for public speaking, as can be witnessed in the Apollo 11 pre-launch news conference. He is a true hero and no one can deny that and I would love to meet him one day.

I do like Buzz and can forgive him his desire to be the first out, other astronauts did far worst and are still regarded as heros, and I wouldn't have minded if he had been first out.

When I see a documentary and astronauts like Scott, Young, Duke and Bean tell their stories but no Armstrong I do wonder if he considers himself to be above all that, I'm probably wrong, but if all the other guys can do it why can't he?

I have just finished reading Stafford's book, 'We Have Capture' and was quite surprised to see just how much work Stafford has done for NASA over the years. I think a lot of people just wish that the first man on the moon had been a more outgoing kind of guy.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-17-2008 09:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robsouth:
I think a lot of people just wish that the first man on the moon had been a more outgoing kind of guy.
I think it's largely an urban legend that Armstrong is not a "more outgoing kind of guy." He does just as much, if not more, as many of his fellow Apollo-era astronauts both for NASA and in the public limelight -- it's just that because of his added fame, more people pay attention to him than they do the others.

Like Stafford, Armstrong still serves NASA, both through the NASA Advisory Council and through his involvement in public affairs activities. He makes public appearances -- not just closed-door company presentations but large events such as the naming of the 'New 7 Wonders of the World' last year (and it was only a few years ago that he appeared at a Star Trek convention, of all places).

And if the reports are true, he's even lending his voice to a new movie alongside Samuel Jackson, William Shatner and Mark Hamill.

The only significant activity that Armstrong shies from, to my knowledge, is one-on-one interviews, which is why you don't see him in as many documentaries or news specials.

Overall, I think we put way too much emphasis on who was first to set foot on the Moon. Neil and Buzz landed at the same time -- who came down the ladder first was simply a matter of logistics. And the mission would not have been a success without both of them there, let alone Mike Collins in orbit.

The "first men" should be celebrated more so than any one alone (and for that matter, the first 24 should be the real group hailed, as it really was a team effort that made the moon missions possible).

robsouth
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posted 07-17-2008 10:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Spacepsycho:
Originally posted by Spacepsycho:
"NASA is welfare for smart people".

Haha, classic!

Just checked the sightings page on here, Buzz is down for 5, Armstrong's down for none!

alanh_7
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posted 07-17-2008 05:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the word 'Hero' is an over used term. I have doubts that Armstrong or any of the astronauts would apply that word to themselves. In my opinion, I think extraordinary may be a more applicable term. Surely there has rarelly been a more extraordinary group of people than those that belong to the astronaut corps from all nations.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-17-2008 05:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by robsouth:
Armstrong's down for none!
Only at this moment, and there are times when Aldrin falls off the list, too (not to mention that there are events that are omitted from Sightings at the request of their organizers or for other reasons).

Betsy
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posted 07-17-2008 05:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Rob

I actually do like Buzz from what I've seen, I just didn't like what he did. It's hardly unforgivable, however, and after 40 years, I think we can move past that.

As for why Neil doesn't participate in many of the documentaries, we all know that he would then become the centerpiece. People would be focusing on his thoughts and comments when he's spent years deflecting credit from himself and onto everyone who participated in the Apollo endeavor. He seems to be honestly, genuinely humble - a unique gentleman to say the least.

I guess it's natural to gravitate to gregarious personalities; it's just unfortunate when those who are more private are labled cold and aloof. Clearly NA is not that, as I've found out just in reading many posts on this board (and elsewhere). I admit that, given that NA is by far the biggest name in the Space business and a truly historical figure, it would be nice to hear from him more.......The public would love it. However, I don't judge him. I'm just glad that he has handled his fame with dignity and class. He was placed in a unique position and has upheld that position extraordinarily well.

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posted 07-17-2008 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Robert

Glad to hear that Neil still serves NASA - I guess people assume that he just stays on the farm and lives the life of a hermit because he doesn't promote himself or appear in documentaries. It seems that's how he likes it - he carries on and does the work that is important to him, even if it's not the kind of work that gets flashy publicity.

Do tell about the rumors about Neil participating in a new movie - I haven't seen that before. That would be fantastic.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-17-2008 10:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Betsy:
Do tell about the rumors about Neil participating in a new movie...
For the scoop about the film, see: Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey

KC Stoever
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posted 07-18-2008 12:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sorry. Late to an interesting thread.

First, defining hero: in mythology, a hero is a demigod--like Hercules or Achilles--the offspring of a human father (or mother) and a goddess (or god). This touch of divine accounts for the hero's superhuman courage, strength, or leadership.

Our modern heroes, with their human parents, aren't demigods, but they must, I think by definition, have what we regard as outsized courage, or strength, or ability to inspire or lead in the face of great adversity or danger.

This ability to inspire or lead is often called charisma, another word that hints at divinity or blessing. Oratory is part of being a hero-leader. Let's go to the moon, they'll say, and their listeners respond, "Of course!"

Betsy frames her hero in slightly different terms: "It seems to me that NA is regarded as a hero for more than just the fact that he was the First Man. He's regarded as a hero because of his . . . innate decency, integrity and modesty just to name a few.

These are fine qualities to admire in a neighbor: innate decency and modesty. But I don't know that Achilles was innately decent or modest. As a demigod, in fact, he was a little inclined to grandiosity in keeping with his physical and martial gifts.

Colin Burgess and I have batted this question of who had "it" (this ineffable quality) among the early astronauts. We agreed in the end that John Glenn epitomized the hero in 1962 by exemplifying the courage, strength, and self-sacrifice in service to a great national cause. As for his charisma, see Tom Wolfe's take in THE RIGHT STUFF. And as for oratory, he made cynical old lawmakers weep during his postflight address before the U.S. Senate.

In the end, I don't think little boys and girls know or care if their hero stars in an Actifed commercial or scores a beer distributorship following his exertions in space on behalf of a nation. I could be wrong, but I think it's mostly the adults who parse the heroism in heroes.

Oh, and: Neil Armstrong is a hero of the first order. The quiet confidence that by all accounts he has demonstrated throughout his life is another hallmark of a hero and a leader.

East-Frisian
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posted 07-18-2008 01:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for East-Frisian     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What a question. He is a hero - nothing there to discuss.

ejectr
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posted 07-18-2008 02:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Precisely.

robsouth
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posted 07-18-2008 04:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Betsy
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posted 07-18-2008 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
KC, thanks for your very interesting reply. I love Greek mythology, so your comparisons are very apt. Odysseus, IMO, was a classic hero - sailing incredible distances, facing great dangers, so he could make it home to his wife, Penelope. Yes, he was heroic because he blinded the Cyclops and had all sorts of fantastic adventures, but thinking about it now, I think he's more of a hero because he suffered through these misadventures because he loved his family and his homeland enough to do so.

There are all sorts of definitions of hero. Some (if not all) people would call ordinary mothers and fathers, putting food on their table for their families, heroes. In terms of history, though, KC - I agree with what you said about modern heroes. Those are the people that will go down in history.

I framed my question the way I did because maybe I just view things differently from most people. Of course I'm aware that NA is a hero for his professional accomplishments. However, let's just say he was not a good man, was arrogant and rude and generally speaking someone you wouldn't want your kids to emulate. If that were the case, I personally couldn't admire him no matter what he did in his career. I don't just feel this way about Neil - this is my personal philosophy about any historical figure. My favorite people in history are not just great, but they are good as well; there is a difference.

As to your last comment, KC - I love reading about "Dr. Cool" (I think Charlie Dukes called him this in "In the Shadow of the Moon") and how unflappable he was. I suppose this is because I am the complete opposite. As emotional as I am, I admire that cool, confident quality in other people. I think I also read a quote from Gene Kranz to the effect that when you looked in Neil's eyes, you could tell he was the commander. I love that quote.

Rob, that's a great pic - thanks for posting. I don't think I've seen that one before

keelerphoto
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posted 07-18-2008 09:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for keelerphoto   Click Here to Email keelerphoto     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Question to Betsy, how old are you? In the 1960s and early 70s this was big news and putting your life on the line for me and mankind, that's a hero.

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posted 07-19-2008 09:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Keeler

I was born in 1971 - 36 years old. I'm just glad we have video available of these events and that the internet makes it incredibly easy to learn about people and events that were before my time. I hope something as exciting as the Moon landing happens in my lifetime.

KC Stoever
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posted 07-19-2008 11:41 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks, Betsy.

And Keeler brings us back to a central point, often obscured in our modern-day welter of so-called heroes. Pioneering space flight occurred in a specific historical context of the cold war and inimical ideological foes, the United States and the Soviet Union.

What is the verse? No greater love hath a man than he lay his life down for his brother?

This is how the early astronauts were viewed in 1959 and 1967. We assumed they would die and in dying demonstrate their love of mankind, freedom, and peace. Because the cold war was about preventing a hot one. It's that simple.

So, yes, the guy who jumped on the subway tracks in NYC a couple of years ago to save a stricken man is a hero of the first order. Lenny Skutnik is a hero. Just a schmoe (sp?) stuck in traffic when an airplane crashed into a bridge. He jumped into an icy Potomac river when people we call bystanders hesitated. You can stand by or act. Heroes act because of outsized courage or outsized love--or outsized opportunity.

I want to be that guy who jumps into the river to save a drowning person whose airplane just crashed into Memorial Bridge. But I've never gotten the chance.

But the first seven were like Lenny Skutnik. They were just test pilot schmoes when they got the chance, in 1959, to jump into a river.

Anyway, Keeler's point: It was important as a matter of national security that the Free World prevail in 1957 after Sputnik was launched. At first seven men, then more, stepped forward and were chosen to help in this effort, along with cast of millions (without whom there would have been no guidance systems, no missiles, no space-age materials technology, no cold war victory). Here we naturally consider them heroes--some of us because we remember them. Others because we read about them, like you.

Finally, about heroes as you define them: You make my point in your remarks about Ulysses (forgive me: I am forever stuck with the spelling from my fifth-grade book of Greek myths handed to me one fateful day by Mrs. Royal in the Seabrook Elementary library). Yes, the domestic virtues are admirable. And the reunion of Penelope and Ulysses makes for affecting reading. I always choke up when the old dog recognizes his master and then dies on the spot.

But Homer wrote about Ulysses not because of the backstory of a marraige but because of an epic war fought for national vanity and pride. And he wrote about his complicated hero, Ulysses the trickster, because of Ulysses' role in winning that war. Because Ulysses was a leader. Because Ulysses was ingenious. Because Ulysses persevered. Because Ulysses survived to tell a story so that the story reverberates today.

Was it ten years to win the war and ten years lost for Ulysses while he flirted with every siren and witch in the Aegean? I forget. That's a 20-year separation and not a very good husband, as we understand the term today. While Penelope was putting bread on the table in her capacity as queen of Ithaca.

I guess there are all sorts of heroes, in the Iliad and today.

robsouth
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posted 07-19-2008 01:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Betsy in answer to your question, was Armstrong a hero, "because of how he handled that responsibility", here are two extracts from a great book I'm reading at the moment, one I'd recommend to anyone interested in the space program. The book is called, 'Apollo Moon Missions The Unsung Heroes'.

The first extract is from Julian Scheer. "If you sat down and had a beer with him, you'd say he's a regular guy, without ego, very accomplished, very modest, not impressed with himself or what he did. But he was very serious about his work, a highly skilled-test pilot and very, very calm under pressure."

The second extract is from Gerry Griffin, "I think all of us were happy to hear that Neil was going to be the first guy on the moon, all the guys around me were like, 'Hey, that's a good selection.' We all had great respect for him. He wasn't real talkative. But I used to say this about him: When he says something, you'd better listen, because it's generally important and...accurate".

Betsy
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posted 07-19-2008 03:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Those are great quotes, Robsouth, thanks for posting! I hope I don't sound like an idiot, but who is Gerry Griffin?

I read a quote in First Man from Gordon Cooper which really raked Neil over the coals for not publicizing NASA more and stating that "...John Glenn would have been a great (in italics, for emphasis) first man". I'm sure he would have and I thought it was the neatest thing in the world when Glenn went into space again a few years ago, but I'm sorry Mr. Cooper felt that way. I think for the most part the surviving astronauts very likely don't envy the burden that NA has had to shoulder for decades. I'm sure each of them would have loved to have been the first on the moon, but how would they have dealt with the fame and the publicity? It's easy to say from a distance that someone else would have done it better, but I'll venture to guess that even the more outgoing of these men would have found the constant public glare hard to deal with.

Back to the book, Rob, it sounds like a very interesting read. I may order that via Amazon as I've not seen it in any bookstore.

Betsy
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posted 07-19-2008 03:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Betsy   Click Here to Email Betsy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
KC, you're spot on about the outsized heroics that Homer wrote about and glorified. I doubt anyone in the world would remember his name if he just wrote about Odysseus' domestic life (I use the Greek name because, frankly, I could never get into Roman mythology. To me, Zeus is Zeus, not Jupiter; Athena is Athena, not Minerva).

What I probably need to do is differentiate between someone's historical legacy (the reason they are labled as great, or a hero) and their personal legacy (their personal life). In other words, I can admire someone for his incredible accomplishments and also have reservations about him as a human being.

Going back to your earlier thoughts, as someone looking back on events through 40 years of hindsight, it's still amazing to me that the Soviets could have launched a man into orbit before we did. I used to wish that I could go back in time and witness the youthful energy associated with President Kennedy. He was young, vital and handsome......and at first, I romanticized that period in history. Then I realized what a scary time it was and I have never wished to go back there again


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