Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon when he hopped about for a camera on that July day in 1969, deserves the kind of greatness accorded to pioneers. With the Olympics fresh in mind, Armstrong developed the kinds of skills and mental toughness that mark gold medal athletes. He became an astronaut because he was a crack test pilot. The Air Force knew he would perform under pressure and that he had instinctive abilities that could deal with the unexpected.
Everything about the moon mission was a never-before experiment. Many of the things which could have gone wrong would have killed Armstrong and his crew at any point in the ascent and descent. Perfection in both men and equipment was required. Perfection was delivered.
Armstrong on the moon and back was much more than an astounding scientific achievement. The mission put the United States back on top. While the space race with Russia had already been won, that extraordinary first step was a knockout punch the whole world recognized and applauded.