Neil Armstrong spent the last 40-plus years of his life never really thinking he'd done something all that special -- on July 20, 1969, he walked to work like anyone else.
Of course, "work" happened to be taking the first steps onto the surface of the moon, which made Armstrong unique in human history. According to his own biography, James Hansen's First Man, Armstrong disliked the idea that he got the role commanding Apollo 11 because of some innate specialness of his own, so he kept as low a profile as possible especially after leaving the space program. He did not seem to understand that the public interest and high regard offered him came because he'd done something no one had ever done before -- not because he was some sort of superman or noble saint. Whatever the reason, his decision kept him from embarrassment following his time in the headlines.
Armstrong, one of a dozen men to walk on the moon, died today at 82. His death leaves eight living human beings who have stood on a planetary surface other than our own. The youngest, Charles Duke, is 76. Whether their number will grow before they too embark on the much longer journey just taken by Armstrong is open to question.