Former U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died.
A family statement said the 82-year-old icon died Saturday in his home state of Ohio, following a cardiovascular procedure earlier this month.
Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. After stepping on the lunar surface,
he sent the historic message: "that's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." As an enthralled world looked on, Armstrong spent nearly three hours walking on the moon with fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.
Armstrong had largely withdrawn from public life in recent years. But he spoke earlier this year at Ohio State University at an event honoring fellow space pioneer John Glenn, former senator from Ohio.
Weeks after the moon walk, Armstrong, Aldrin and the mission's third astronaut, Michael Collins, received a thunderous welcome with ticker-tape parades in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. They later made a world tour.
The moon walk marked America's victory in the Cold War space race with the Soviet Union that began in October 1957 with the launch of the Soviet satellite "Sputnik 1."
President Barack Obama, in a statement Saturday, called Armstrong "among the greatest of American heroes, not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off ... they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation. They set out to show the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable - that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible."
Astronaut Neil Armstrong (2012 photo)
U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong (C) gives a thumbs-up after receiving the Congressional Gold Medal at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, November 16, 2011.
Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 and the first man on the moon, laughs during testimony before a House Science, Space and Technology committee hearing in Washington, September 22, 2011.
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins (L) and Buzz Aldrin (R) stand during a recognition ceremony at the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology tribute to the Apollo 11 astronauts at the Cannon House Office Buildin
Apollo 11 astronaut, and the first man to walk the moon, Neil Armstrong, left, holds the Langley Gold Medal after it was presented to him by Vice President Al Gore at a ceremony at the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum in Washington, July 20, 1999.
Apollo 11 crew of U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong, (L) who was the mission commander and the first man to step on the moon, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, (R), who was the lunar module pilot, and Michael Collins, (C), May 1969 (courtesy NASA)
Undated file photo provided by NASA shows Neil Armstrong.
Apollo XI Astronauts Neil Armstrong (L), Michael Collins (C), and Buzz Aldrin laugh with President Richard Nixon aboard the USS Hornet, courtesy Richard Nixon Foundation, July 24, 1969.
Neil Armstrong, U.S. civilian astronaut, became first man to walk on the moon as flight commander of Apollo 11 space mission, July 1969.
The Apollo 11 crew leaves Kennedy Space Center's Manned Spacecraft Operations Building during the pre-launch countdown in this July 16, 1969 NASA handout photo. Mission commander Neil Armstrong, command module pilot Michael Collins, and lunar module pilot
Undated image provided by NASA shows Neil Armstrong posing with a X-15.
** FILE ** In this July 20, 1969 file photo, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface. (NASA)
Apollo 11 astronauts trained on Earth to take individual photographs in succession in order to create a series of frames that could be assembled into panoramic images. This frame from Buzz Aldrin's panorama of the Apollo 11 landing site is the only good p
Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 Commander, inside the Lunar Module as it rests on the lunar surface after completion of his historic moonwalk, July 20, 1969.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called Armstrong an American hero who will inspire him for the rest of his life. He praised the astronaut for operating "with courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country."
Saturday's family statement described Armstrong as "a loving husband, grandfather brother and friend." It asked that the public "honor 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."
Armstrong's Apollo 11 mission earned decorations from 17 nations and many special American honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
In later years, he served as Deputy Associate Administrator at NASA headquarters, and was a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He and his family lived on a 120-hectare farm outside of Cincinnati, Ohio.