Aug 27, 2012 8:34 PM by Matt Stafford
Since Neil Armstrong's death over the weekend, many of us have been looking back to the Apollo 11 mission where he was the first man to step on the moon.
A former astronaut, now living in Woodland Park, had a chance to meet Armstrong years ago. Retired Brigadier General Bob Stewart flew 290 hours in space. He remembers watching the Apollo 11 moon landing years before he was in NASA.
"I knew it was one of the most historically significant days this country had seen," says Brig. Gen. Stewart. "But I actually had a little bit different problem going on at the time as my daughter took her first step on the planet Earth the day Neil took his first step on the moon."
Understandably he was a little preoccupied while Neil was walking on the moon, but Gen Stewart didn't imagine at the time that one day he'd be flying in space too.
Gen. Stewart flew missions in Vietnam. He was also a test pilot and eventually became an astronaut in the late 70s.
Early in his time with NASA Gen. Stewart and his colleagues had to go through an education process. It was a session Gen. Stewart likely won't forget.
"A lot of the older guys came back in to brief on what they had done; the problems that they had found. Neil was one of those guys; obviously one of the super stars," says Gen. Stewart.
Stewart says that Armstrong didn't act like a super star though.
"We were the young whipper-snappers, but we had the advantage in that the engineers that had worked with Neil in putting mankind on the moon were still there at NASA," explains Gen Stewart. "He was very quick to give credit to the people who stayed on the ground."
General Stewart still enjoys watching our accomplishments in space.
"I think that the Curiosity is one of the most fascinating things I've seen," says Gen. Stewart. "NASA is headed in the right direction in using unmanned vehicles to explore."
"It's very very expensive to put people somewhere, so you want to know if there's a reason to put people there," says Gen. Stewart.
For now Gen. Stewart thinks we should be going back to the moon. He feels we should work on improving our landing technology to be ready if we decide to send people to Mars.
"I think you wouldn't find anybody, that is a candidate to be an astronaut, turning down a chance to be the first man on Mars; that would be, I think, even a higher magnitude than Neil's first step on the moon."
Another step we can all be proud of.
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