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Neil Armstrong, the 'giant leap' man, dies

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Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon. A NASA photo

WASHINGTON (PTI): Neil Armstrong, the legendary US astronaut, who in 1969 took "one giant leap for mankind" by becoming the first man to set foot on the Moon, has died at the age of 82.

Armstrong died just weeks after he underwent a heart surgery, and his family said in a statement that he passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, according to US media reports.

July 20, 1969 became a watershed date in the history of mankind after Armstrong, commanding the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the Moon, and accompanied by fellow astronaut Edwin Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the Moon.

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," is how Armstrong had broken the historic news from the Earth's satellite when he radioed back.

It had taken Apollo 11 craft, carrying Armstrong and fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, four days to complete the nearly 250,000-mile (400,000 kms) journey, as the world waited with bated breath.

"While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves," his family said in a statement.

"For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink," they said.

Paying tribute to the legendary astronaut, US President Barack Obama said, "Neil was among the greatest of American heroes, not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation."

"They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable, that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible," Obama said, adding that he and the first lady were deeply saddened by Armstrong's death.

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