The first man to ever walk on the moon has just died yesterday. The all-American Neil Armstrong’s most famous words, on that famous Apollo 11 mission, will surely never be forgotten: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong lived a long and happy life, until he died at the age of 82.
From the Guardian:
The US astronaut Neil Armstrong secured his place in history on 20 July 1969, when, as commander of the Apollo 11 spacecraft, he was the first man to set foot on the moon, and made his famous statement: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Armstrong, who has died aged 82, was accompanied on that epic journey by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the pilot of the lunar landing module with the call sign Eagle, and Michael Collins, pilot of the command module with the call sign Columbia.
The crew of Apollo 11 were not chosen for the mission because they were in any way special among the elite group of test pilots who comprised the corps of American astronauts: it was simply their turn on the flight roster. If an earlier plan had succeeded, the crew of Apollo 10 would have made the first moon walk in May 1969, but because of delays in the development of the lunar module that mission became a full dress rehearsal for a lunar landing, all bar a touchdown.
The Apollo 11 astronauts’ euphoric moonwalk provided Americans with a sense of achievement in the space race with Cold War foe the Soviet Union and while Washington was engaged in a bloody war with the communists in Vietnam.
Neil Alden Armstrong was 38 years old at the time and even though he had fulfilled one of mankind’s age-old quests that placed him at the pinnacle of human achievement, he did not revel in his accomplishment. He even seemed frustrated by the acclaim it brought.
“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work,” Armstrong said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program in 2005.
He once was asked how he felt knowing his footprints would likely stay on the moon’s surface for thousands of years. “I kind of hope that somebody goes up there one of these days and cleans them up,” he said.
But while Neil’s legacy will surely remain, another Armstrong has just fallen through the professional cracks.
The first time I heard about doping allegations against cancer-surviving bike champion Lance Armstrong was also on the program “60 Minutes.” It was then when his former teammate, Tyler Hamilton, made a very controversial admission that he and his teammates had engaged in doping. I believed it then, and now it all seems to be true.
In the end, Lance Armstrong quit. And no matter how fiercely he writes his statements or fires rockets on Twitter or demands we continue to buy into the fantasy that in a world of doping cyclists he alone was clean and rode faster and stronger, he still quit on Thursday night.
By quitting, he let the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency say he was guilty, say his seven Tour de France championships were as fake as everything else in a dirty sport. Because if he was innocent, if there was some means to battle the organization with no legal power the way he had the U.S. Department of Justice, he would not be letting USADA try to yank the yellow jerseys from his closet.
No way if there’s even a hint of hope does Lance Armstrong let this happen to his name. He was always too proud, too defiant, too stubborn to give up. He beat cancer. He beat the federal government. He beat everything that came his way. He didn’t relent.
If there was a fight to still fight, he would have fought it. Now we’re burned by another fraud masquerading as a hero.
But we should remember that Lance Armstrong was more than just an athlete. He was also an inspiration figure of cancer survival, and he indeed gave hope to many people.
[. . .] It’s impossible not to look at the sea of yellow bands and the sick who have climbed from deathbeds, and say Lance Armstrong hasn’t made the world a better place for many.
But at the same time he sold a fairy tale. And he demanded we believe it. He fed it to us repeatedly while throwing everything he could find in the way of a darker truth that kept closing in. He could have continued to fight past Thursday.
This reminds me of the scandal in which author James Frey was confronted by Oprah on her show, regarding allegations of falsifications and exaggerations in his book, “A Million Little Pieces.” In the end, the book served as an inspiration for people suffering from drug abuse and overwhelming dispair, but it was essentially masqueraded as entirely factual, whereas there were several big things that were simply untrue. Some people were very angry with him, whereas others didn’t seem to mind.
So the question with Lance Armstrong is now: Has this doping scandal completely and irreparably tarnished his name?