An American hero and icon has left us today.  Neil Armstrong, who with his partners Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on Apollo XI redefined the meaning of the word “explorer” and extended our reach to the Moon, passed away at age 82:

Neil Armstrong, the Apollo 11 astronaut who became the first human being to set foot on another world, has died. He was 82.

In a statement his family said Armstrong had passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

The family described him as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend, and also as “a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job.”

CBS has a longer video from a 60 Minutes profile from several years ago, which I’d recommend.  Armstrong’s humility and calm comes through very clearly in his interview with Ed Bradley.  CBS also gets the famous first words from man on the Moon correct: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Armstrong said later that the (a) got swallowed up by the transmission, and that the statement was one that underplayed his individual role in the moment while noting the monumental leap it meant for the whole human race.

Many American children grew up idolizing Armstrong, Aldrin, and all of the other astronauts who risked their lives — some of whom paid the ultimate price — in order to push our boundaries into the cosmos.  My father worked in the space program for almost 30 years, including the Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle phases, and so perhaps even more than some, I thought of these men as giants.  We had the most well-known of them for a very long time, a blessing that perhaps we’ll only appreciate in retrospect.

Godspeed, Mr. Armstrong.  An entire world thanks you for your courage and accomplishment.

Update: A commenter scolded me for not mentioning Michael Collins, who flew the command module that allowed Armstrong and Aldrin to go to the moon’s surface and back safely. A point well taken, and I’ve edited the first paragraph.