– The Associated Press

When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon all those years ago, he made his country believe that anything was possible with ingenuity and dedication — and in the process became one of America’s greatest heroes, his friends, colleagues and admirers said Saturday after news that the former astronaut had died.

“When I think of Neil, I think of someone who for our country was dedicated enough to dare greatly,” said former astronaut John Glenn, who went through jungle training in Panama with Armstrong as part of the astronaut program and was a close friend. He said Armstrong showed exemplary skill and dedication.

The idea of Armstrong as a humble pilot who served his country above all was echoed around the nation Saturday, by visitors to museums that fete his accomplishments and by his former NASA colleagues.

In California, visitors and staff at the Griffith Observatory paused for a moment of silence. At the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, a black ribbon hung over a plaque of Armstrong in the museum’s entryway and a U.S. flag was lowered in Armstrong’s memory.

Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, capping the most daring of the 20th-century’s scientific expeditions.

Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs. Aldrin, who became the public face of the moon landing after shy Armstrong recoiled from the public eye, said his colleague’s leap changed the world forever and became a landmark moment in human history.

“Whenever I look at the moon, it reminds me of the moment over four decades ago when I realized that even though we were farther away from Earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone,” he said. “Virtually the entire world took that memorable journey with us. I know I am joined by millions of others in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew.”

The third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, circled the moon in the mother ship 60 miles overhead while the other two went to the surface. “He was the best, and I will miss him terribly,” Collins said, according to NASA’s website.