He died a pilot, a professor, a scientist and a hero.
There are a lot of pilots, a lot of professors and a lot of scientists. But if the word is to mean something worthwhile, there are few heroes.
Like many words, the word hero has become debased somewhat, by overuse, but my 1988 Collins dictionary defines it well (although old-fashionedly in its gender assumption) as:
‘a man distinguished by exceptional courage, nobility, etc’
That’s my emphasis, please note.
One of Armstrong’s exceptional etc’s was curiosity. And anyone who reads my own newsletter will know that I am a big fan of what NASA has started to achieve with its Curiosity rover, on Mars.
The development of this project was an exercise in astonishing boldness, heaped upon massive innovation, grown out of remarkable creativity. And what makes it particularly appealing to me is that I believe curiosity to be the magic ingredient of creativity.
We choose to do these things…
In launching the Apollo space programme that put Armstrong on the moon, John F Kennedy made two key speeches: the first to Congress in May 1961 announced the goal of going to the moon. Then, in September 1962, speaking at Rice University, he spoke at length about the project, saying:
‘We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.’
Is that not the nature of creativity and innovation?
What is the nature of heroism?
Innovation, by its very definition, is risky. It is new, it is uncertain, it could fail. But if it presents a challenge that is truly worthwhile, if it addresses a deep hunger for knowledge and a nobility of endeavour, then being prepared to take that risk, for its own sake, is heroism.
Neil Armstrong was a hero.
Neil Alden Armstrong was an American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, U.S. Navy pilot, test pilot, and university professor.
Born: August 5, 1930
Died: August 25, 2012
University of Southern California(1970)
Purdue University (1947–1955)