Brinkley: Neil Armstrong is a "sustainable hero"

U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing mission, was the first person to set foot on the moon. His family announced he died Saturday, August 25, 2012 at the age of 82.
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(CBS News) Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died on Saturday at the age of 82.

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012 - Slideshow

Neil Armstrong's 2005 interview: "First Man"

One of the millions who idolized Armstrong was a boy who grew up near his home. Historian Douglas Brinkley was raised in Perrysberg, Ohio and remembers the first moon walk as a defining moment for his generation.

"The fact that we were breaking the shackles of earth and Neil Armstrong, the local Ohio boy was actually going to the moon was an incredible sensation," Brinkley said Monday on "CBS This Morning." "My friends and myself - we would collect anything we could about Apollo 11."

Brinkley is a professor of history at Rice University and a fellow at the James Baker Institute for Public Policy. He is also the author of numerous bestselling books, including "The Reagan Diaries," "The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America," and most recently, "Cronkite."

In 2001, NASA asked Brinkley to conduct an oral history with Armstrong. Brinkley asked him a question about the moon and if he had thought that he might be there one day, or even after he came back, if he looked at it.

"He said, 'No.' He wasn't being a difficult person to interview," Brinkley said. "He just really felt the moon was a job."

Armstrong is often described as being reserved about his own achievements. A graduate of Purdue with a degree in engineering, Brinkley said Armstrong had the best technical superiority in the space program, yet was very modest and devoid of any romanticism.

"He never wasted an adjective or adverb. He boiled things down to its essence," he said.

Brinkley calls Armstrong "a sustainable hero," someone who will live on in history books because his accomplishment is so defined.

"We tear a lot of people down. Armstrong is sustainable. People will talk about him a thousand years from now."