Astronaut Neil Armstrong dies at 82

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, has died at the age of 82.

A statement from Armstrong's family said he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. It does not say where he died.

Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the Moon on July 20 1969. He radioed back to Earth the historic news of "one giant leap for mankind".

He and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the Moon, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs. In all, 12 Americans walked on the Moon from 1969 to 1972.

Armstrong was a quiet, self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely nerved US pilot he made his "one giant leap for mankind" with a small step on to the Moon. In those first few moments on the Moon, during the climax of a heated space race with the then-Soviet Union, Armstrong stopped in what he called "a tender moment" and left a patch to commemorate Nasa astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts who had died in action. "It was special and memorable, but it was only instantaneous because there was work to do," Armstrong told an Australian television interviewer this year.

"The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to," Armstrong once said.

The moonwalk marked America's victory in the Cold War space race that began on October 4 1957 with the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, a satellite that sent shockwaves around the world.

Although he had been a navy fighter pilot, a test pilot for Nasa's forerunner and an astronaut, Armstrong never allowed himself to be caught up in the celebrity and glamour of the space programme. "I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer," he said in February 2000 in one of his rare public appearances. "And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession."

Announcing his death, Mr Armstrong's family said in a statement: "We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend. Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his nation proudly as a Navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. While we mourn the loss of a very good man we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves."

Armstrong's family statement continued: "For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour 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."