August 27, 2012

At a time when human cartoons become famous and rich for having done nothing and achieved nothing, Neil Armstrong’s achievements seem doubly unique. Not only did Mr. Armstrong do something no human had ever done or would ever do again — become the first to step on the moon — he also gracefully declined what must have been countless offers to amass wealth and additional fame for his achievement.

The superb front-page obituary [“With ‘small step,’ astronaut moved the heavens and Earth,” Aug. 26] noted that Mr. Armstrong “shied away from the public and avoided the popular media. In time, he became almost mythical.” That perhaps does not meet a scientific definition of cause and effect. But it is a formula that more earthbound celebrities should consider.

Lance Morgan, Washington

Besides the retelling of the wondrous adventure of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin becoming the first humans to set foot on the moon, which so many of us of a certain age witnessed as it happened, what leaped out of Mr. Armstrong’s obituary was the fact that so much employment resulted from the lunar-landing program.

Some 400,000 people worked to get the astronauts to the moon. I would guess that most of them were Americans. And the devices they designed were probably mostly made in the United States. A similarly far-seeing goal today would not only reduce the unemployment rate but also encourage legions of our young people to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

And it’s worth noting that many commercial inventions came from that early space program. Spinoffs from a new program could help this nation be more competitive in the global economy for years to come.

John DesMarteau, Washington