The world watched in breathless silence on July 20th, 1969, as Commander Neil Alden Armstrong became the first Earth dweller to set foot on the Moon. As he made his precarious way down to the surface of that cold, unknown rock, he uttered words that have resounded throughout history-

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

That mission turned out to be his last, as he was named NASA's Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics in the Office of Advanced Research and Technology. A desk job. He left NASA a year later to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

Armstrong, who lived in the Cincinnati area with his wife, Carol, underwent a heart-bypass surgery to relieve blocked coronary arteries, just two days after his August 5 birthday.

A statement from his family said he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

"Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job," his family said. "He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut.  He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits."

Armstrong was a 30-year-old test pilot, flying the X-15 rocket plane for a new government agency called NASA, when President John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and issued a challenge;

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," he said. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

Armstrong fulfilled that challenge as a pilot for two Gemini missions, as back-up commander on Apollo 8 and finally as Commander of Apollo 11.

View The Full 1969 Landing Operation below

A native of the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio, he also served as a Naval aviator in the Korean War, flying 78 missions, and had an engineering degree from Purdue University.