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

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

One thought on “Neil Armstrong (1930-2012): A Child of Apollo Salutes His First Hero”

  1. Thanks Nalaka….really a great piece of writing…

    First moon landing…. 1969…I was three years older than you and as you have so aptly said it was my very first recollection with a definite date attached too…

    Wasn’t there a sinhala broadcast by Radio Ceylon?….I remember so..may be I am mistaken….

    Well, it changed the way I was thinking about the world and the mankind too….not at that tender age but much later…

    I firmly believe that being a first hand witness to such an epoch making event was a great privilege that I wouldn’t exchange for anything else…

    The walk down memory lane was really pleasant indeed…Thanks again….

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