Sunday, May 19, 2013
A waxing gibbous moon prompted Ron Burk to open the Starfield Observatory in West Kennebunk Sunday night.
A picture display of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, occupies the main stage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday. Mainers remember Armstrong, who died Saturday, as a “modest, decent man,” and an inspiration.
The Associated Press
Viewing the moon in one of its brighter, larger phases wasn't the only reason the amateur astronomer sent out an e-mail to observatory followers called 'clear sky alert.'
Burk was touring Germany in 1969 when American astronauts became the first men to land on the moon.
"I will be thinking of Neil Armstrong tonight, absolutely," said the 61-year-old Burk, who fell in love with the night sky in the mid-1990s after viewing two comets with his son. "He was the first rocket man. I've always admired him."
People across Maine reacted Sunday to the death of the first man to set foot on the moon.
Armstrong died Saturday at the age of 82. He and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, where Armstrong spoke the words that are still remembered today: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Charles Chiarchiaro, 63, will retire later this year as executive director of the Owls Head Transportation Museum.
He was introduced to Armstrong in the late 1990s when he and his wife were invited to Cincinnati to accept a Mississippi River steamboat that was being given as a donation to the museum.
They spent the weekend together at James Geier's home, where they became friends with Armstrong. Geier, a summer resident of Boothbay, was a director of the museum at the time.
"Neil was a very reserved person. I think many of the astronauts get that way after looking back at the Earth. They look down at the Earth and they realize that we are just a speck in this huge universe," Chiarchiaro said.
He would meet Armstrong again at Geier's funeral.
"I know the power of inspiration from having met Neil Armstrong," Chiarchiaro said. "He was a testament to understanding the power of people and how to see the best in them."
Chiarchiaro called Armstrong a true explorer whose feat inspired other explorers.
"That first step will always leave a footprint on the memories of people for generations to come," he said.
Jack Wibby of Gray was teaching physics at Yarmouth High School when Armstrong set foot on the moon.
He was watching television with his family in the living room of their cottage on Sebago Lake.
"I will never forget that moment," said the 79-year-old Wibby. "I can still see them stepping out of the Eagle ... It was one of those moments."
While the technology that carried Armstrong to the moon amazed Wibby, he was more impressed with the man.
"Someone said these guys have the right stuff and they were right," Wibby said. "He was a modest, decent man, who was very brave."
Chris Griffith, 55, of Scarborough, is a pilot. He is also founder of the Texas Flying Legends, who performed last weekend at the Great State of Maine Airshow in Brunswick.
He was 12 years old when Armstrong set foot on the moon. At the time, Griffith was watching television at his parents' home in Hartland.
While Griffith never got to meet Armstrong in person, he admired the man and his accomplishments from a distance.
"His death is another one from that great generation. They are slowly leaving us and that is sad. These are the guys that kept this country from becoming polarized. Now we just fight each other," Griffith said.
Griffith said he became a pilot partly because of the messages such accomplishments sent to him as a young man.
"It just opened the doors and gave you more confidence. It gave me the confidence that anything was possible," he said.
Jerry LaSala, 63, is a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Southern Maine.
Periodically, one of his students will press LaSala, asking him whether the moon landing was staged.
LaSala, who viewed the landing on television, laughs it off and usually is able to persuade the skeptics that it was not a hoax.
"Neil Armstrong was a good role model and an inspiration to generations," LaSala said.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: