Neil Armstrong (1930-2012): A Child of Apollo Salutes His First Hero

This footprint in the sand will stand the test of time and elements….

In her debut novel The Moon in the Water (2009), Lankan author Ameena Hussein uses a memorable line to describe her protagonist’s many dilemmas: “Her generation had the burden of being the link between the old world and the new. Between pre-man in the moon and post. Between letters and email.”

I’m as much a part of that in-between generation as her character Khadeeja. Rather than being a burden, however, I find it an extremely privileged vantage point to have been. There will never be another generation like ours that straddled two worlds…

For many of us who experienced it, the Apollo 11 ‘Moon shot’ will be among our most indelible memories. Among the various labels I can choose from those tumultuous times, I consider myself a Child of Apollo.

And the boyish, blue-eyed Neil Armstrong (already 39 when he went to the Moon) was my first hero.

These are excerpts from my personalised tribute to Armstrong, who signed off for good on 25 August 2012. In it, I reflect on how the first Moon Landing influenced me personally at the tender age of 3, and recall the very different times in which we lived our lives on the other side of the planet from where Apollo missions were taking off.

It’s a light-hearted, nostalgic and essentially personal tribute, not at all an academic or polemical discussion of the Cold War politics that inspired the Great Space Race. But I do touch on what it meant to be part of history’s first Big Media Moment that was shared in real time by 600 million TV viewers and another few dozen million radio listeners worldwide.

If Neil was originally a hero to me for riding atop the world’s greatest fireworks machine and taking that Giant Leap for Mankind, he is a hero for me now for what he chose to do with his life upon his return.

Read full essay: A Child of Apollo Salutes His First Hero: Remembering Neil Armstrong

O voyagers, O seamen,
You who came to port, and you whose bodies
Will suffer the trial and judgement of the sea,
Or whatever event, this is your real destination.”
So Krishna, as when he admonished Arjuna
On the field of battle.
Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.

– T. S. Eliot

Neil Armstrong – Driven by a sense of wonder, did his job quietly and well