Hundreds pay tribute to Neil Armstrong at Kennedy Space Center

Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:22pm EDT
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By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - As family and friends of Neil Armstrong gathered in Ohio on Friday for a private memorial service, NASA paid tribute to the Apollo astronaut, calling him a great American and a space hero.

"He never dwelled on his remarkable accomplishments or sought the limelight," Kennedy Space Center director and former astronaut Robert Cabana said during a short tribute to Armstrong at the Visitor Complex's Apollo-Saturn 5 Center.

"He just wanted to be part of this remarkable team and to continue to move us forward," Cabana said.

More than 400 people, including NASA employees, community leaders and tourists gathered to remember Armstrong, who died on August 25 following complications from heart surgery. He was 82.

A national memorial service in Washington is expected to be held in September.

Armstrong rocketed into the history books as commander of NASA's Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, the first to land astronauts on the lunar surface.

Cabana, a retired Marine colonel who flew four space shuttle missions, hailed Armstrong as a pilot and astronaut, but said his greatest contribution was as a teacher.

"He wanted to share his knowledge and his experience and see us continue to be a world leader," in space and aeronautics, Cabana said.   Continued...

People take pictures during a memorial service for Neil Armstrong in the Apollo Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center, Florida August 31, 2012. U.S. astronaut Armstrong, who took a giant leap for mankind when he became the first person to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82, his family said on August 25, 2012. Attendees of the three minute ceremony toured the space center after paying their respects for Armstrong. REUTERS/Michael Brown