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Neil Armstrong and NASA: One Giant Leap

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Neil Armstrong and NASA: One Giant Leap

Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who became the first man to set foot on the moon, personified NASA's Apollo space mission. When Armstrong died Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82, the United States remembered his massive contributions to the space program, especially that first step on the moon. "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" is one of the most famous quotes in American history, one that still quickens pulses and makes us turn our eyes to the sky in wonder.

Over the decades, Armstrong has been the face of the Apollo 11 mission and of space exploration in general. Yet Armstrong routinely credited the thousands of scientists, technicians, and others who made his Apollo 11 flight to the moon possible. Here are a few of those people.

 Elizabeth Spahr (Cleveland Plain Dealer)Dr. Elizabeth Spahr, also remembered as Betty Spahr Del Duca, "took up her first post with the then nascent National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in the 1950s, where she remained until 1971," according to the obituary in Leesburg (Florida) Today.

"A fuels and power cell specialist, and one of only two women scientists employed by the new Administration, Dr. Spahr published numerous significant scientific papers which are a matter of record, and was a key individual in the U.S.'s eventual achievement of a lunar landing during the Apollo Project," the obit said.

"In addition, Dr. Spahr contributed significantly to several other important NASA projects." Dr. Spahr, who died Aug. 16, 2012, at age 81, "received the Apollo Achievement Award for her contribution to Apollo 11's successful landing on the Moon, July 11, 1969, as well as the NASA Federal Service Award."

Her family also published a shorter obituary which appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and several other publications.

 Anthony J. Vaccari (Asbury Park Press)Anthony J. Vaccari, a silversmith and metal spinner who died Aug. 24, 2012, at age 91, "created specialty parts from precision design specifications for such unique projects as the Nautilus, America's first nuclear submarine, the Tokamak fusion reactor in Princeton, and NASA's Apollo Moon Program," according to the obit in the Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press.

Willard Kline (The Desert Sun)Willard (Will) Kline "was a draftsman for the aerospace industry and worked on designs for the NASA Apollo Lunar Program," according to the obit published in The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California, on Aug. 21, 2012.


William McMahon (Houston Chronicle)William (Bill) McMahon, who died July 20, 2012, at age 82, "worked in Guidance & Control for NASA for 30 years on the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and the Space Shuttle programs," according to the obit in the Houston Chronicle.


Richard Shorthill (Deseret News)Richard Warren Shorthill, 83, who taught physics at the University of Utah, "received the Benjamin Franklin award for his pioneering work in the field of fiber optics and worked with NASA on the Viking program, the Apollo missions to the Moon and the Boeing Company," according to the obit in the Deseret News of Utah.

Henry T. "Hank" Jamroz, who died July 25, 2012, at age 92, was an aeronautical instrument maker at Bendix Aviation Corp. from 1949 to 1980 and "participated in assembling gyroscopes, in a 'clean room' environment, which were used in space exploration missions, government defense and private industry projects, most notably, Pershing and Poseidon missiles and the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle missions," according to the obit at NorthJersey.com. "In 1968, he received an award from NASA for his work that contributed to the success of Apollo 11." 


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She was the director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers before she passed away in 2015.