SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Neil Armstrong was a soft-spoken engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made “one giant leap for mankind” with a small step onto the moon. The modest man, who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter-million miles away, but credited others for the feat, died Saturday. He was 82.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement Saturday after news of his passing made its way around the world.

“With the passing of Neil Armstrong, we honor a humble man who led enormous national achievements.

“When Neil Armstrong took his small step, Americans knew we could overcome any obstacle and prevail over any challenge. Throughout the rest of his life, he continued to work to inspire the next generation – to careers in science and innovation, to lives of service, to broad and bold perspectives.

“It was a privilege to join other congressional leaders late last year in honoring Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow.

“Neil Armstrong was an American hero who never looked back, always moving our nation into new generations of exploration. May his example continue to inspire for decades to come.”

Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, his family said in a statement. Armstrong had had a bypass operation this month, according to NASA. His family didn’t say where he died; he had lived in suburban Cincinnati.

Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969, capping the most daring of the 20th century’s scientific expeditions. His first words after becoming the first person to set foot on the surface are etched in history books and the memories of those who heard them in a live broadcast.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong’s friends, NASA colleagues and admirers around the country agreed the former astronaut was a humble pilot who served his country above all.

His shuttle colleagues Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins said Saturday that they will miss a dedicated, smart and careful astronaut and friend.

In Washington, D.C., tourist Jonathon Lack from Alaska said he decided to tour the Air and Space Museum after hearing of Armstrong’s death.

He said he sees in Armstrong’s death a reminder of an America where people dreamed big things and sought to accomplish the inconceivable.

At the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Ohio, a black ribbon hung over a plaque of Armstrong in the museum’s entryway and a U.S. flag was lowered in Armstrong’s memory.

Armstrong died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, his family said in a statement. Armstrong had had a bypass operation this month, according to NASA. His family didn’t say where he died; he had lived in suburban Cincinnati.

More words of condolence for Neil Armstrong:

“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.” — Armstrong’s family, announcing his death in a written statement.

“Neil was among the greatest of American heroes — not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation. They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable — that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible. And when Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.” — President Barack Obama

“Neil Armstrong was a very personal inspiration to all of us within the astronaut office. His historic step onto the Moon’s surface was the foundation for many of our personal dreams to become astronauts. The only thing that outshone his accomplishments was his humility about those accomplishments. We will miss him as a friend, mentor, explorer and ambassador for the American spirit of ingenuity.” — Bob Behnken, chief of the NASA Astronaut Office.

“As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind’s first small step on a world beyond our own. Besides being one of America’s greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all. When President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a human to the moon, Neil Armstrong accepted without reservation. As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong.” — Charles Bolden, NASA administrator.

“He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.” — Michael Collins, who flew to the moon with Armstrong and served as the command module pilot.

“When I think of Neil, I think of someone who for our country was dedicated enough to dare greatly.” — John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth and Armstrong’s close friend.

“On behalf of the Aldrin family we extend our deepest condolences to Carol & the entire Armstrong family on Neil’s passing. He will be missed.” — Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon, via Twitter.

“RIP Neil Armstrong. Thank you for everything, for your sacrifices, achievements, and inspiration. We will try to carry on your legacy.” — Bobak Ferdowsi, flight director on the current Mars Curiosity mission, famously photographed with a mohawk haircut. “Neil Armstrong understood that we should reach beyond the stars. His `one giant leap for mankind’ was taken by a giant of a man.” — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who flew on space shuttle Columbia in 1986, just one month before the Challenger accident.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed)


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