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Members of the congregation stand at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington during the national memorial service for the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong. (AP)

'All That's Great About America': Nation Bids Neil Armstrong Farewell

by Eyder Peralta
Sep 13, 2012 (All Things Considered)

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Hundreds packed the Washington National Cathedral today to pay their respects to Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

Perhaps the most amazing tribute came from Eugene Cernan, the man who followed in Armstrong's footsteps and became the last man to walk on the moon during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.

"He embodied all that is good and all that is great about America," Cernan said according to Reuters. "Neil, wherever you are, you again have shown us a way to the stars. As you soar through the heavens where even eagles dare not go, you can now truly put out your hand and touch the face of God."

As Korva wrote, Armstrong died last month at age 82.

Space.com reports that today's memorial "brought together dignitaries, community and political leaders, Armstrong's family members, and members of the NASA family, including current and former astronauts."

One of the poignant details of the ceremony, is that on July of 1974, Armstrong along with Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin donated a piece of moon rock that is 3.6 billion years old to the Cathedral. The rock is now on display in one of the church's stained glass windows.

Tying the tribute together, Jazz vocalist Diana Krall sang "Fly Me to the Moon," which, as the Christian Science Monitor explains, was played on the moon during the Apollo 10 and Apollo 11 missions.

Reuters reports that overall, Armstrong was remembered as a "humble hero." Reuters adds:

"'We are standing on the shoulders of giants as we get ready to take the next steps into space,' said Bolden, a former astronaut.

"At the close of the service, Bolden presented Armstrong's wife, Carol, the flag that had flown at half staff over the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston on August 25, the day he died."

Armstrong will be buried at sea on Friday.

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