September 5, 2012

Thank you for publishing Daniel Goldin’s Aug. 31 Washington Forum commentary, “Reaching for the moon, and beyond,” in which the former NASA administrator lauded the late Neil Armstrong as “the symbol of all that was good about America . . . his courageous feat representing one of the greatest triumphs ever achieved.”

Mr. Goldin also hailed the moon landing as a transformative moment for the United States and implored Americans to continue to reach for the stars. However, it wasn’t just this nation that was transformed on July 20, 1969, by Mr. Armstrong’s first step on the moon. Not since Nicolaus Copernicus has one person embodied so fundamental a change in how we view ourselves and our place in the universe.

The poet Robert Browning once wrote, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” After Mr. Armstrong, even the heavens were suddenly within our collective grasp.

With one small step, Mr. Armstrong brought us all just a little closer to the stars. His death is a giant loss for humankind.

Stephen A. Silver, San Francisco