Original Moon-Walker, Neil Armstrong, Dies

Neil Armstrong dies at 82 following complications from coronary bypass surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The man who inspired millions to literally reach for the stars by taking the first human step on the moon, Neil Armstrong, has died.

The 82-year-old astronaut had heart-bypass surgery a little over two weeks ago to relieve blocked arteries.

His family stated that he died following complications from the surgery.

While taking the first step on the moon on July 20, 1969 from the lunar ship Eagle, Armstrong's words became inspiration for every school child: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Armstrong and crew mates Buzz Aldrin, who joined him on the moonwalk, and Michael Collins, who orbited above, spent eight days on the moon trip before Apollo 11 returned to earth.

After the historic Apollo 11 flight, Armstrong retired from flying and went on to serve as a NASA manager for a few years and then to teach at the University of Cincinnati for eight years.

He continued to remain involved with NASA, serving on the accident investigation teams for Apollo 13 and the Challenger.

Though known the world over, Armstrong remained a relatively private man, declining interview requests, most biography offers and most autographs. He also turned down those who approached him about making political statements.

Born on a farm in Ohio August 5, 1930, Armstrong became fascinated with flight during his first one at age 6.

He studied aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and then earned his master's in aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California.

Armstrong flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War while in the U.S. Navy and then was a test pilot in more than 900 flights at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.

He joined NASA's second class of astronauts in 1962 and among the first civilians in space during his first space flight on Gemini 8 in 1966.

Among his many honors are the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Armstrong had coronary bypass surgery on August 7, two days after his birthday. The procedure is done to improve blood flow when the arteries have become blocked.

The condition of blocked arteries is called coronary artery disease, or arteriosclerosis, and is caused by heart disease.

During coronary bypass surgery, the doctors take a healthy blood vessel from a person's leg, arm, chest or abdomen and connect it to other arteries within your heart so that the blood can get around the diseased or blocked arteries.

The surgery can help prevent a heart attack and can reduce symptoms of heart disease such as chest pain and shortness of breath, though it cannot cure heart disease and it does have risks.

The most common complications are bleeding and irregularities in the heart beat, called arrhythmias.

Other complications can include a heart attack, kidney failure, infections at the incision area, memory loss and stroke.

The level of risk of these complications varies considerably, depending on a person's age, medical history and health prior to surgery.

Armstrong's family did not release details about the complications. He is survived by his wife Carol, who lived with him in the Cincinnati area.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 24, 2012
Last Updated:
August 25, 2012