Written by Tiffany De Masters
Des Moines Register
An astronaut who graduated from Iowa State University said Saturday that Neil Armstrong stood out among the veteran space explorers he looked up to.
“He was the first to set foot on the moon. He is a legend, he is an icon, he is an American hero; all of those adjectives describe him perfectly,” said Clayton Anderson.
Anderson first had the desire to go into space when he watched Apollo 8 circle the moon. He said watching Armstrong, who died Saturday, walk on the moon in 1969 cemented his desire to become an astronaut.
Anderson was 9 when he watched on television with his family in Ashland, Neb., as Armstrong made his historic walk.
“I think one of the most important things I remember was the exasperation and the relief of Walter Cronkite when he was able to announce and see the pictures,” Anderson said. “You got a sense of just how special a moment it really was by watching the other people who were involved in the broadcast.”
Anderson, 53, earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at Iowa State in 1983, the year he started working at NASA. He spent five months on the International Space Station in 2007. He has logged 167 days in space.
He was selected an astronaut in 1998 and met Armstrong at a lecture when he was a rookie.
“The thing that I took away … was his pride for his country and his space program,” Anderson said.