On Saturday, NASA lost an extraordinary and beloved member of our family with the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the surface of the moon. Neil will always be remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own, but it was his courage, grace, and humility before, during, and after his historic Apollo 11 mission that has continued to lift him and all of us far beyond that breakthrough achievement.
Before becoming a NASA astronaut, in the mid 1950's Neil interrupted his college studies at Purdue University to become a Navy fighter pilot who flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War. His service to NASA included assignments as an engineer, test pilot, and deputy associate administrator for Aeronautics. He joined our astronaut corps in 1962 and was the commander of the 1969 moon landing.
Neil's unquenchable thirst for knowledge and problem solving led him into leadership positions in corporate America and in academia where he devoted himself to inspiring new generations of scientists and explorers. My own decision to pursue a career with NASA as an astronaut was greatly influenced by his example. I was proud to know Neil Armstrong as a colleague, advisor, and friend. As this agency prepares to journey to places in space no human has ever gone before, we stand on the shoulders of a true American hero. As the Armstrong family said in their statement on Neil's passing, he would want us "to be willing to explore and push the limits" of our abilities.
I ask you to join me, the Armstrong family, a grateful nation, and an admiring world in remembering the achievements and honoring the legacy of Commander Neil Armstrong and in the words of the Armstrong family, "the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."
You may also view Administrator Bolden's video message at: