Ka La Associate Editor
In the early morning, after the moon set at Honolulu Community College, an American flag was raised to half staff in honor of the first man to set foot on the lunar surface and say “… One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong died at the age of 82 on Saturday due to complications from heart surgery.
A private memorial for Armstrong was held in his home state of Ohio today.
Honolulu Community College science professor Gregory Witteman recalls what he was doing when man first walked on the moon.
“I remember watching on a 19” black and white television, when I was a really little kid, Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon,” Witteman said, “in terms of science and engineering, that’s pretty much as good as it gets.”
“I was sitting there with my grandfather,” Witteman said, “when he was a little kid in the 1890s, they didn’t have anything except for horses and walking.”
“Sitting there with somebody that saw the first cars and then planes and then somebody actually leaving the planet and walking on the moon, it was pretty impressive,” Witteman said.
Witteman and the students he mentors are continuing the innovation.
They have fun too.
“We misuse every product at Home Depot,” Witteman said. What most people see as a simple PVC pipe can be a payload bay for an unmanned submersible.
The United States Department of Agriculture and NASA funds Witteman’s protégés who research things ranging from aquaculture to rocket science.
NASA grantee Chelsea Becker is studying algae. “We’re going to shoot Opai into space,” she said.
Becker’s favorite moment in space exploration is NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory earlier this month, which employed a previously untried powered descent method known as sky-crane.
Becker said she heard about about Armstrong’s death. Witteman’s students weren’t around on July 21, 1969 to watch the historic first steps.
At least one of them wishes he could have seen it live back then. Matthew Mao is working on the algae project with Becker. “I wish I could have been there to watch it,” he said.
Witteman’s students are the next generation of pioneers.
“…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,” reads a statement by Armstrong’s family.