BEIJING, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man ever to set foot on the moon, died at the age of 82 on Saturday.
Best remembered by his words "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong's death shocked the world.
Armstrong, an iconic space explorer, commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. He and his fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin spent two and a half hours walking on the moon, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs, while astronaut Michael Collins remained in orbit in the command module.
"He served his nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot and astronaut," his family said.
Born on Aug. 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong served in the U.S. Navy and joined the Korean War before becoming an astronaut. After the war, he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High Speed Flight Station.
In 1961, former Soviet Union beat the United States in the space race by sending its cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into the outer space to complete an orbit of the Earth in April.
Under the pressure, former U.S. President John Kennedy announced the lunar-landing mission about a month after Gagarin's space flight and set a challenging deadline for the landing, which was 1969.
Regardless of his feat in accomplishing the most daring scientific expedition of the 20th century, Armstrong remained modest and self-effacing.
He was described by his family as "a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."
"I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work," he said in a CBS interview.
Armstrong left NASA a year after the Apollo 11 mission to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
U.S. President Barack Obama lamented the death of Armstrong, calling him a man "among the greatest of American heroes -- not just of his time, but of all time."
"When Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten," the president said in a statement.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden also praised Armstrong, saying he will be remembered for "taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own."
"As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong," he said.