A national act of remembrance for Neil Armstrong was held at the Washington National Cathedral (on of whose windows include a moon rock brought back by Apollo 11) on the morning (local time) of 13 September. The service,which was broadcast by NASA TV, held had traditional religious elements with hymns, choral anthems, and bible readings (Armstrong was thought to be a believer in God if not organised religion).
During the service, President Kennedy’s Rice University speech which committed the nation to go to the Moon was played. There was also a strangly moving performance of “Fly me to the Moon” sung by Diana Krall.
The US National memorial service for Neil Armstrong. Courtesy: NASA TV
The congregation included Neil Armstrong’s second wife and widow, Carol, and his family as well as many of his friends and colleagues including fellow Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin. The US Navy, within which Armstrong served as a jet pilot during the Korean War, was also heavily represented. Those playing tribute included current NASA Admininstrator Charles Bolden and Apollo 17’s commander Gene Cernan who gave eulogies and his Apollo 11 crewmate Mike Collins who led the prayers.
Some amusing anecdotes were told including how Armstrong was asked by a young questioner what went though his head when he realised he had only seconds left showing on his fuel gauge during Apollo 11’s lunar descent. After thinking for a while, Armstrong’s reply was that “when the gauge is at empty we all know that there is a gallon left in the tank”.
It was also noted by Gene Cernan that in being a civilian pilot as an astronaut even though he was ex-US Navy, Armstrong had not actually received his gold “astronaut wings” until a special US Navy ceremony inl 2010 – to Armstrong’s immense pride. .
Comment by David Todd: As this excellent and moving service ended one had an overall sense that Neil Armstrong, pilot, astronaut, and reluctant hero, was a good man – and one that would want to have in your astronaut crew, in your family, or just as one of your friends. God bless Neil Armstrong – wherever he is.