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Neil Armstrong is remembered as America's beloved moonwalker

September 13, 2012|By Rene Lynch

The nation bid a formal farewell to legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong on Thursday, honoring the world's first moonwalker, whose phrase "one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind" will never be forgotten.

Armstrong died last month at age 82 after a life purposely lived outside the fame that surrounded him when he commanded the 1969 Apollo 11 space mission that culminated with his lunar walk.

Hundreds crowded into the Washington National Cathedral for an interfaith memorial service. It was a particularly apt setting: A moon rock that the Apollo 11 astronauts gave the church in 1974 is embedded in one of its stained glass windows.

PHOTOS: Neil Armstrong's memorial

Those 1,500 in attendance included a who’s who of the nation's space program, including Armstrong's Apollo 11 crew members Edward "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins, fellow astronaut and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn. About two dozen members of Congress were also there, according to the Associated Press.

The lunar-laced remarks during the memorial service wove together Armstrong's accomplishment in space -- and on terra firma.

“He's now slipped the bonds of Earth once again, but what a legacy he left,” former Treasury Secretary John Snow told the gathering, according to the news service.

"You have now shown once again the pathway to the stars," Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, said in a tribute to Armstrong. "As you soar through the heavens beyond even where eagles dare to go, you can now finally put out your hand and touch the face of God."

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut himself, read a letter from President Obama saying, "The imprint he left on the surface of the moon is matched only by the extraordinary mark he left on ordinary Americans."

During one particularly poignant moment, singer Diana Krall delivered a slow version of "Fly Me to the Moon."

The service followed a private funeral held a few weeks ago for close family and friends. And there is one last service to be performed before Armstrong will finally be laid to rest, reported Fox News.

Armstrong will be buried at sea during a service conducted by the Navy. Obama ordered flags be flown at half-mast to mark the day of the ceremony, Fox reported.

In announcing Armstrong's death, his family asked the public to remember the astronaut when they look up and catch a glimpse of the moon. When you "see the moon smiling down at you," they said, "think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

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