“I just think a really great man has passed, and the world is poorer for it,” he said.
Cernan and Lovell recounted visiting U.S troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with Armstrong, saying he always had an inspirational impact when meeting troops, schoolchildren and other admirers around the world.
Lovell said Armstrong was “a great American” who never capitalized on his celebrity and just “wanted to be a team player.” While Armstrong had said any of the astronauts could have been the first to walk on the moon, Lovell and Cernan said Armstrong was the right choice because of the way he handled suddenly becoming an icon.
Armstrong’s family has suggested memorial contributions to two scholarship funds in his name or to the Neil Armstrong New Frontiers Initiative at Cincinnati Children’s. His wife, Carol, is on the hospital’s board.
The astronauts were joined there Friday by 14-year-old Shane DiGiovanna, an aspiring aerospace engineer with a rare skin tissue disease. He is able to hear after a cochlear implant, with a device developed by a NASA scientist.
Before the announcement, Shane, who said Armstrong has always inspired him, quizzed the two astronauts about details of their missions. Lovell recounted the streams of oxygen that wrapped the Apollo 13 spacecraft “like a cocoon” after an oxygen tank explosion. The harrowing Apollo 13 flight was recounted in his book and depicted in the popular movie, in which Tom Hanks played Lovell.
After his space career, Armstrong returned to Ohio, teaching aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati and generally avoiding public view for most of the rest of his life.
Armstrong married Carol Knight in 1999. He had two sons from a previous marriage.