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Obama, Romney pay tribute to Neil Armstrong

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

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President Barack Obama and Neil Armstrong in the White House’s Oval Office in July 2009 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty …

President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney closed ranks to pay tribute to Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, after he died Saturday. He was 82.

"Neil was mong the greatest of American heroes — not just of his time, but of all time," Obama said in a statement declaring that he and First Lady Michelle Obama were "deeply saddened" to hear of the former astronaut's passing.

Armstrong and his fellow Apollo 11 crew members "carried with them the aspirations of an entire nations" and aimed to "show the world that the American spirit can see beyond what seems unimaginable — that with enough drive and ingenuity, anything is possible," the president said.

"When Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten," Obama said.

"Today, Neil's spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown - including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space. That legacy will endure - sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step," he said.

In his own statement, Romney said Armstrong "today takes his place in the hall of heroes.

"With courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country, he walked where man had never walked before. The moon will miss its first son of earth," the former Massachusetts governor said.

"I met and spoke with Neil Armstrong just a few weeks ago--his passion for space, science and discovery, and his devotion to America will inspire me through my lifetime."

Obama had honored Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin at the White House on July 20, 2009 — exactly 40 years after Armstrong's small step for man, giant leap for mankind.

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