BARACK OBAMA is considering whether to grant Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, a state funeral. There is just one problem: Armstrong was a famously private man and his family may not want any public fanfare.
State funerals are usually reserved for former presidents, reports The Daily Telegraph. The last time this rule was broken was in 1964, five years before Armstrong walked on the lunar surface, for General Douglas MacArthur of WW2 and Korean War fame.
Republican congressman Bill Johnson floated the idea, saying: “I ask President Obama to hold a state funeral for Neil Armstrong so that every American may pay tribute to this groundbreaking hero.”
But Armstrong, who died of complications following heart surgery on Saturday at the age of 82, always shunned the limelight – in contrast to Buzz Aldrin, the second man to step onto the moon, who has appeared in The Simpsons, admitted to having a facelift, published memoirs about his struggles with alcohol and depression and even recorded a rap song with Snoop Dogg.
Armstrong, who described himself as a geeky “white socks” engineer, was also modest – always making a point of saying that he had not been ‘chosen’ to go to the moon. Crews were on a rota and Armstrong insisted he was just lucky to be picked.
His death has prompted a mood of introspection in the US, reports The Guardian, with sadness that the glories of the Space Race have not been carried forward into the modern era. No-one has stood on the surface of the moon since 1972 and there is no current plan to send a manned mission to Mars.
One of Armstrong’s rare public appearances was when he appeared before a Senate committee on space travel in 2010. He criticised the failure to replace Nasa’s defunct space shuttle programme and said he believed Barack Obama was “poorly advised” on space exploration.
In the wake of his death, Elliot Pulham of the US-based Space Foundation decried the lack of financial support for Nasa, saying: “In this age of timid exploration goals and paltry Nasa budgets, Armstrong looms as a larger-than-life reminder of what our nation was once capable of.” ·