I only saw him once, at a college graduation at the College of Mount St. Joseph where I am on the faculty. He was the graduation speaker. I recall that from my seat I kept looking at his feet trying to remember which one was the first on the Moon, left or right? His talk to the graduating class was unassuming. No lasting memories of his words that day. But his presence I will never forget.
America, the world, is fortunate to have brave space pioneers. Today Curiosity is on Mars. In all likelihood somewhere on this planet on this day there is someone who walks, or crawls, whose name will be remembered like Neil Armstrong. She or he will be the first person to walk on Mars. It will be an incredible moment for our species, one reminiscent of July 20, 1969.
The planet feels a little different to me tonight. I've lost a hero. I mourn his passing. How fortunate were those who could call him friend. How fortunate the rest of us for his gifts to humanity. One small step -- with his left foot.
Image: Copyright 2011 John A. Ballard. This is an image of the sculpture of Neil Armstrong on the campus of Purdue University. I have digitally altered the color.