Washington: Neil Armstrong, the legendary US astronaut, who in 1969 took "one giant leap for mankind" by becoming the first man to set foot on the moon, has died at the age of 82, his family said on Saturday.
Armstrong died just weeks after he underwent a heart surgery, and his family said in a statement that he passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, according to US media reports.
July 20, 1969 became a watershed date in the history of mankind after Armstrong, commanding the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the moon, and accompanied by fellow astronaut Edwin Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the moon.
"That`s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," is how Armstrong had broken the historic news from the Earth`s satellite when he radioed back.
It had taken Apollo 11 craft, carrying Armstrong and fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, four days to complete the nearly 250,000-mile (400,000 kms) journey, as the world waited with bated breath.
"While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves," his family said in a statement.
"For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink," they said.
Paying tribute to the legendary astronaut, US President Barack Obama said, "Neil was among the greatest of American heroes, not just of his time, but of all time. When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation."
"They set out to show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable, that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible," Obama said.
Obama said that he and the first lady are deeply saddened by his death. For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, the family said they have a simple request: "Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."
Armstrong inspired generations of Americans to believe that America is capable of achieving greatness that only comes with determination, perseverance, and hard work, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said.
"As a true pioneer, his one small step showed all mankind the great feats we can accomplish when we set ourselves to the task. While Neil is no longer with us, his spirit and his legacy of American achievement and national pride will live forever," Panetta said paying tribute to the legendary US astronaut.
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, said Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes.
"With courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country, he walked where man had never walked before. The moon will miss its first son of earth," he said.
"I met and spoke with Neil Armstrong just a few weeks ago--his passion for space, science and discovery, and his devotion to America will inspire me through my lifetime," Romney said.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said as long as there are history books, Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking "humankind`s first small step on a world beyond our own".
Besides being one of America`s greatest explorers, he carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to all, Bolden said.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Armstrong was an American hero who never looked back, always moving the nation into new generations of exploration.
"When Neil Armstrong took his small step, Americans knew we could overcome any obstacle and prevail over any challenge. Throughout the rest of his life, he continued to work to inspire the next generation, to careers in science and innovation, to lives of service, to broad and bold perspectives," she said.
"Neil Armstrong was a true American hero, both because of his extraordinary service to his country and the honourable life he led. He was a groundbreaking Naval aviator and the world`s most famous astronaut, but it was his humble and gracious response to the torrent of attention that followed his accomplishments that may have set him apart most," Ohio Senator Rob Portman said. His family in the statement described him as "a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job”.
"Neil Armstrong was a true American hero, both because of his extraordinary service to his country and the honourable life he led. He was a groundbreaking Naval aviator and the world`s most famous astronaut, but it was his humble and gracious response to the torrent of attention that followed his accomplishments that may have set him apart most," Ohio Senator Rob Portman said.
In one of his rare public appearances at a gathering with Aldrin and other Apollo astronauts to mark the 30th anniversary of their moon landing, he recognised the importance of his achievement.
"In my own view, the important achievement of Apollo was a demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited," Armstrong said.