Former NASA astronaut reflects on Neil Armstrong's death

Saturday, August 25, 2012 | 6:59 p.m. CDT; updated 9:23 a.m. CDT, Sunday, August 26, 2012
Former NASA astronaut and current astronomy instructor at MU, Linda Godwin remembers watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon in 1969. That event inspired her to work for NASA. In this 2011 file image, Godwin, center, laughs with Andrea Sims, left, and Hillary Switzer about a moon observation exercise after a class.

COLUMBIA — Linda Godwin, a former NASA astronaut, said she still remembers when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon.

“I have a very vivid memory of being at home in Jackson, Missouri, with my family,” she said. “I remember I was watching Apollo 11, and I was fascinated.”

Following Armstrong's death Saturday, Godwin, a Columbia resident who now teaches astronomy at MU, reflected on the impact Armstrong and his accomplishments had on her life, as well as the lives of others.

When she watched Armstrong land on the moon in 1969, Godwin had an inkling that she wanted to work for NASA but had no idea how to go about it, she said.

She also recognized the magnitude of the event.

“It was the news for the world, not just for me,” she said.

Godwin said that she remembered Armstrong as being humble within the NASA community. He seldom returned for astronaut reunion events but did return once to talk about his experiences.

"Here we were in awe, we lined up to get his autograph, and we were so lucky to get to do that because he didn’t do that very often at all,” she said.

Godwin said she thinks Armstrong's death will make people think about the past for a while.

“In general, the (space) programs will continue as they are, and for a short period of time, people will focus on the accomplishments and feel proud again,” she said.

Although many people are aware of the impact Armstrong had on NASA, a lot of people aren’t well educated about what is currently happening in space, Godwin said.

“What amazes me is that people assume we’re still going to the moon,” she said. “We say no, that was kind of a 40-years-ago thing.”

Godwin said she hopes this event will refocus people’s attention on what the space industry could do then and what it can’t do now.

“Hopefully it will spark some interest,” she said.

Supervising editor is Alison Matas

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