Neil Armstrong, who recently died at the age of 82, was the first man on the moon. As a Generation Xer who barely recalls watching his first lunar step on television, I am still in awe that those words as I write them are true. Neil Armstrong’s achievement is one of the greatest moments in history.

His name is synonymous with the best scientific event of what many consider the American century – the 20th century – which was actually man’s bloodiest century. Now in the spiral of a serious decline, it is easier to see that Mr. Armstrong’s tremendous accomplishment of flying and landing Apollo 11 is a grand counterpoint to the rest of the rotten century, which included the worst acts of mass murder sponsored by government known to man: Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

Putting a man on the moon, overly credited to President Kennedy and powered by less computer technology than is currently included in an Apple iPhone, required an enormous exertion of united American – and it was an American achievement – effort that resulted from tireless thoughts, calculations, connections, integrations and actions by those who worked on and participated in the endeavor – in a nation based on individual rights. As Ayn Rand, who had been invited to witness the launch of Apollo 11—and did—wrote in her publication, The Objectivist, after seeing Apollo 11’s rocket ship blast off:

Frustration is the leitmotif in the lives of most men, particularly today—the frustration of inarticulate desires, with no knowledge of the means to achieve them. In the sight and hearing of a crumbling world, Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved it—the story and the demonstration of man’s highest potential.”

The U.S. astronaut who told us that “the eagle has landed” in that remarkably human action on July 20, 1969, and took man’s first step on the moon – a fact which some, possibly many, of humanity has contempt for – was Neil Armstrong. May he who gave us the sublime sight of man at his best rest in peace.