In the twentieth century, there have been many men and women to leave their mark on history but perhaps few in the category of Neil Armstrong. Listening to Armstrong yesterday as the keynote speaker at the Intergraph User Conference I wondered to myself if I was seeing the last, true American hero. As a thirteen year-old, I watched the moon landing and witnessed Armstrong’s "one small step for man…" Armstrong doesn’t do much public speaking and was thought to be somewhat reclusive in years following the first manned adventure to the lunar surface. But the man was nothing but humble and generous with his thoughts on going back to the Moon and perhaps to Mars as well.
Armstrong reflected on the day he set foot in the Sea of Tranquility and gazed up to see "a turquoise pendant perched against a black velvet sky." He said that one of the reasons for returning to the Moon is to solve the earth’s energy needs. There is much Helium3 in the soil of the moon that could be mined and used in fusion reactors in the US. The only problem is that a viable commercial fusion reactor has not been constructed. He said that the obstacles and unknowns in going to Mars are far fewer than those he faced in going to the Moon and that it is certainly doable.
Armstrong’s talk was inspiring and nostalgic to those of us who grew up as kids during the early days of the space race and I wondered if there are any visionaries and risk-takers left like him. Armstrong left the stage to a standing ovation and I felt honored to be so close to someone who, as a kid, was a larger than life symbol of America’s dreams beyond Earth.