On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot in the Sea of Tranquility on Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon, and said ‘That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind’. The Crew Commander of the Apollo XI lunar mission and the first human being to step on the surface of the Moon, Neil Alden Armstrong, was a passionate Scout and a humble human being, despite his achievements. In 1947 Neil Armstrong earned the highest achievement for Scouts in Boy Scouts of America, the Eagle Scout rank. He was from Troop 14 in Wapakoneta of Ohio State.
Scouting was part of everything that Neil Armstrong did and hence his space endeavours and travel to the Moon had many Scout elements attached. When the Eagle Scout achievement was instituted by Boy Scouts of America in 1911, it was named after a bird that was a symbol of freedom, strength, bravery, courage, promise, triumph of good over evil, spiritual energy, and ultimate achievement. Befittingly, the Eagle Scout and Commander of Apollo XI named the Module which was to carry him and two other astronauts to the surface of the Moon, ‘Eagle’.
A couple of days before he went on ‘Eagle’ to land on the surface on the Moon, Armstrong managed to send a radio message to wish young Scouts a good time while camping at the National Jamboree of Boy Scouts of America. On July 18, 1969, while flying towards the Moon, he greeted the Scouts: "I'd like to say hello to all my fellow Scouts and Scouters at Farragut State Park in Idaho having a National Jamboree there this week; and Apollo XI would like to send them best wishes".
On space missions astronauts are not permitted to carry many personal belongings due to the weight and space factors. However, amongst the very few things that Neil Armstrong carried to the surface of the Moon and back was the World Scout Badge. On his return, he handed over the badge to World Scouting with a brief note written on a NASA letterhead. The signed citation reads, "I certify that this World Scout Badge was carried to the moon on man's first lunar landing, Apollo XI, July 20, 1969." This historically important badge is kept on permanent display at the World Scout Bureau's central office in Geneva, Switzerland.
Neil Armstrong always strived to serve youth, to inspire them and to help them be empowered. For his services to youth, Boy Scouts of America gave him the Silver Buffalo Award in 1970. The Boy Scouts of America website quotes ‘The Silver Buffalo Award for distinguished service to youth is awarded to those persons who give noteworthy and extraordinary service to youth. This award is Scouting's highest commendation of the invaluable contributions that outstanding Americans make to youth’.
World Scouting salutes the space hero and champion Scout and deeply mourns his loss. His passion and fervour for Scouting will never be forgotten and will continue to inspire many young Scouts around the world.