Late space pioneer Neil Armstrong was a frequent visitor to San Diego – particularly to the Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum was saddened to hear the news of Armstrong’s passing on Saturday.
Employees at the museum won’t just remember Armstrong as an American hero, they’ll remember him as part of the San Diego family.
Armstrong was a familiar face at the museum, visiting at least twice a year for book signing and gala events.
Gordon Permann of the Air & Space Museum said he’ll always remember Armstrong as a kind, humble hero.
“He didn't try to make people feel uncomfortable, or act like he felt that he was special or needed special attention. It was the exact opposite. I hate to make a joke, but he was very down to earth guy,” said Permann.
On Saturday, visitors to the museum also expressed their sadness.
They mourned the loss of an American icon, a leader at a time when the United States was losing the space race to the rival Soviet Union.
At the museum a painted portrait of the astronaut is being proudly displayed in the center of the main hall. And, nearby, space capsules and models of the types of spacecraft that Armstrong flew and famously landed on the moon.
As locals and people around the world mourned Armstrong, his family issued a statement about their great loss and urged people to remember Armstrong by simply looking up at the moon and “giving him a wink.”
The Armstrong Family statement read:
“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.
He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.
As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.
While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.
For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink”
Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta also released a statement Saturday on the passing of Armstrong.
Panetta’s statement read:
I was deeply saddened to learn today of the passing of Neil Armstrong, one of America's greatest heroes and Naval aviators. On behalf of the Department of Defense, I express my condolences to the Armstrong family during this difficult time.
We are bidding farewell to one of our own. As a decorated Korean War veteran, as an astronaut for NASA, and as the first man to walk on the moon, Neil inspired generations of Americans to believe that as a nation we are capable of achieving greatness that only comes with determination, perseverance, and hard work.
As a true pioneer, his one small step showed all mankind the great feats we can accomplish when we set ourselves to the task. While Neil is no longer with us, his spirit and his legacy of American achievement and national pride will live forever.