I know Nick has had a draft lying around for a while (so have I; I just keep them on my own hard drive), so I hope he doesn’t mind me jumping in, but some comment should really be made on the passing of Neil Armstrong before the week is out. It already feels a bit like raking over old news. The reason I’ve held off (and it seems to be the case for Nick, too) is that there really isn’t much more to say that hasn’t already been said. His name will be remembered long after any of us are gone, after David Cameron, Angela Merkel, and President Obama become mere footnotes in history. We don’t know the identity of the first vertebrate to haul itself out of the primoridial ooze; we don’t know who disovered fire, the smelting of bronze, or of iron. But Armstrong, the first living creature to set foot on the moon, the first from this planet to set foot on any other, his name, his words, his deeds, have been recorded, and will not be lost as long as humanity endures.
By all accounts, he was a humble, not to say shy, man who shunned adulation. But it’s not adulation – we know he didn’t do it at all alone, and won his chance to be first almost by lottery – just a simple statement of fact: like Rameses or Caesar, his name will be known to schoolchildren in not just hundreds, but thousands, of years. Of who else, in our lifetimes, can that be said?