We recently lost a true American hero. The first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, passed away at the age of 82.
Naperville has its own connection to the golden age of space exploration. Former NASA secretary and resident Janet Faina worked with Armstrong during his Apollo 11 mission.
“He was so down to earth, he was very unassuming,” Faina said. “If you didn’t know who he was, you would’ve thought he was just the guy next door”
To Faina, Armstrong was not only a skilled test pilot, but also a coworker.
In the early 1950’s, Faina worked for NACA before the group became NASA. She believes Armstrong’s success in previous missions made him the right astronaut for Apollo 11.
“It didn’t surprise me that Neil was picked to be the captain of the first moon landing because of his experience and his already proven ability to handle anything that came up,” Faina explained.
She worked in NASA’s Public Affairs Department for more than a decade, organizing information for the press.
“We would sit with a tape recorder and a typewriter, and [copy information] onto monolith masters that we handed out,” Faina said. “This was really archaic- and we were sending a man to the moon.”
At the time, NASA’s motto was “failure is not an option”. America was in a space race with Russia and NASA was trying to send a mand to the moon before 1970.
Faina still remembers when that dream became a reality on July 20, 1969, on budget and one year ahead of schedule.
“It was incredible. We said golly that almost looks fake, I mean it looked so perfect,” recalled Faina.
Fellow astronaut, Captain Jim Lovell commandeered Apollo 13 and knew Armstrong very well.
““Neil Armstrong was an icon that represented the best in America,” Lovell said.
Today’s students have a hard time relating to Armstrong’s mission as it happened more than 40 years ago.
For teachers like Waubonsie’s Stephanie Rybka, his passing is a teaching opportunity.
“I think just showing them videos that they had back then and just trying to relate them to current events that might have some sort of impact to what would be similar to them,” said Rybka.
Apollo 11 was Armstrong’s final journey to space, but he continued to work for NASA for many years. He became a professor, businessman and advocate for America’s space program.
Armstrong passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
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