‘Would Dad Approve?’ Neil Armstrong’s Heirs Divide Over a Lucrative Legacy - The New York Times - Canadanewsmedia
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‘Would Dad Approve?’ Neil Armstrong’s Heirs Divide Over a Lucrative Legacy – The New York Times



Last fall, Neil Armstrong’s two sons began a round of media appearances to promote a venture that would make them millions of dollars: a series of auctions of about 3,000 mementos from their father’s moon mission and NASA career.

“One Giant Sale” was CNBC’s headline, playing on the astronaut’s famous line, as Mark and Rick Armstrong talked up the items — an American flag that had flown to the moon on Apollo 11; a flight suit their father had worn earlier in his career; and many possessions that had nothing to do with space, including Mr. Armstrong’s childhood teddy bear and a preschool report card he signed.

“You just hope that people get positive energy from these things,” Mark Armstrong told “CBS This Morning.” He told The New York Times they had “struggled with” what their father might think of the auctions. “Would Dad approve? Let’s see what positive things we can do with the proceeds,” he said.

The auctions would prove lucrative amid the rising wave of publicity leading up to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this month: $16.7 million in sales to date. The Dallas auction house calls the memorabilia the Armstrong Family Collection, though it includes a small number of items from other sources, including the astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Another auction, the fourth, is set for November.

Those sales by the brothers, who also pursued a newly disclosed $6 million wrongful death settlement over their father’s medical care, have exposed deep differences among those who knew Neil Armstrong about his legacy — and what he would have wanted.

Some relatives, friends and archivists find the sales unseemly, citing the astronaut’s aversion to cashing in on his celebrity and flying career and the loss of historical objects to the public.

“I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia,” said James R. Hansen, his biographer. “He never did any of that in his lifetime.”

CreditDon Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

The astronaut had stopped signing autographs in 1994, after he discovered that many of those requesting his signature were then selling them. His personal lawyer, Ross Wales, said his client resisted the idolatry focused on his signature and possessions in part because he considered himself only the frontman for a huge NASA enterprise.

“His feeling was that he was not special because he was the first person to walk on the moon, and that he wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for the thousands of people who worked on the mission,” Mr. Wales said.

By contrast with the astronaut’s sons, Carol Armstrong — his second wife, whom he married in 1994 after a divorce initiated by Janet Armstrong, Rick and Mark’s mother — is not known to have sold anything. Instead she has lent and donated a collection of memorabilia to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington; such loans often convert to donations in an arrangement intended to avoid gift taxes. People who know her say she and her adult children, Andrew and Molly, believe her husband would have opposed the commerce in the trappings of his work and life. (Carol and her children declined to comment.)

Mark Armstrong said that the question of what’s best for posterity and what his father might have wanted is not so simple. He said that he and his brother had already donated to museums more than $500,000 in cash and artifacts worth about $1.4 million, and that they had lent items worth several million more.

But he said donations, which offer the donor tax benefits, do not guarantee public access. “Museums can choose to store items out of sight or unilaterally decide to sell them,” he said in an email forwarded by his wife.

As for his father, Mark said, “I think he would judge us not on whether we auctioned items or not, but rather what we do with the proceeds and how we conduct our lives. Dad said that he wanted to leave the world a better place than he found it. I intend to follow his example and teach my children to do the same.”

Mark and his wife, Wendy, said they were using auction proceeds to create an environmental nonprofit in honor of Mark’s parents, called Vantage Earth, that Wendy said would work “to preserve and protect the earth from the damage done to it by its own population — a concern raised by Neil upon looking back at the earth from the moon.”

Tensions are common in any family affected by divorce. When it is the family of the first human being to step onto the moon, with global fame and a large estate, relations get only more complicated.

After leaving NASA in 1971, Mr. Armstrong taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, served on multiple corporate boards and accepted speaking fees, accumulating a fortune worth many millions. But he turned down many opportunities to make even more money, friends say.

At the time of his death, most of Mr. Armstrong’s assets, including the memorabilia, were left in a trust, the beneficiaries of which could not be determined by The Times. His sons may have received some items from their father through the trust, and they received other keepsakes when their mother died in 2018, according to Wendy Armstrong. The first auction was held five months later.

Strains between Mr. Armstrong’s first and second families came to a head after his death in 2012, at age 82, of complications after heart surgery. The Times reported this past week that Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital, outside Cincinnati, had secretly paid the family $6 million to settle a claim that his treatment had been deficient. The family also sought changes in hospital protocols to prevent such deaths in the future.

Papers sent anonymously to The Times described how the removal of pacemaker wires installed during surgery had caused bleeding that could not be repaired quickly because no cardiac surgeon was on duty. The resulting loss of oxygen to Mr. Armstrong’s brain left him in a vegetative state; he died 11 days later after life support was withdrawn.

While there was some friction over when to remove life support, the real clash came later, over the medical malpractice claim, which the sons pushed for and Carol, his widow, declined to participate in.

“In the end, strong feelings ripped apart Neil’s loved ones over the hospital’s handling of Neil’s care,” said Mr. Hansen, who became close to the family while writing his 2005 Armstrong biography, “First Man.”


CreditBill Ingalls/NASA, via Getty Images

Mr. Hansen called the medical crisis “a terrible, traumatic situation” made worse by the fact that “Neil essentially had two distinct families that were not, if they ever had been able to before, thinking and feeling as one.”

Carol Armstrong, who knew her husband had considered the cardiologist a friend, “felt strongly that Neil would not have wanted her to sue the doctors or the hospital — he would not want anyone to take advantage of his name in such a way,” Mr. Hansen said.

Court records show Ms. Armstrong as receiving “zero — not participating,” by her own choice. Neither did her children, the astronaut’s stepchildren, seek any payment.

Mark Armstrong, a 56-year-old retired software engineer, and Rick, 62, a onetime animal trainer who has a software consulting business, got the bulk of the hospital’s payment, about $2.6 million apiece. Neil’s surviving brother and sister got $250,000 each, and the six children of Rick and Mark got $24,000 each.

One court filing in the case, by a lawyer arguing for a greater share for the grandchildren, discussed the uneasy equation between familial relations — even love — and cold cash. While acknowledging that Mr. Armstrong’s siblings might get a larger payment because “they loved him the longest, depended on him the most” and found his loss “most painful,” the lawyer, Bertha G. Helmick, wrote that the “opposite is equally true.”

“The minor grandchildren, having had the least time with Decedent, have suffered the greatest loss of time, attention, protection, advice, guidance, counsel and affection.”

The grandchildren, she wrote, “lost their universally beloved and revered grandfather, who could magically open any door, innocently pave ways into college admissions, and who would have always carried a de facto hero element to any school or athletic or workplace function.”

Rick and Mark Armstrong, represented by Mark’s wife, Wendy, a lawyer, got the settlement after threatening to announce their concerns about their father’s treatment at a gathering at Kennedy Space Center for the 45th anniversary of the moon shot.

The brothers would use the 50th anniversary this month for a different kind of leverage. They were far from the first to sell an astronaut’s possessions — Heritage Auctions in Dallas has sold such collections for 20 other astronauts and their families, said Greg Rohan, the company’s president. But none had the status of Neil Armstrong.

“This is really the holy grail,” Mr. Rohan said in a promotional video.

“Neil Armstrong holds a special place in the space history enthusiasts’ world,” said Robert Pearlman, editor of CollectSpace.com, a website devoted to space memorabilia.

The prices reflected that reverence. Items fetching the highest prices tended to be those that traveled with Mr. Armstrong to the moon, such as a rare gold medal that sold for $2.04 million this month — the highest price in the lot. The American flag that had flown aboard Apollo 11 got $275,000.

Personal items, from Mr. Armstrong’s own childhood and early years of parenting, also sold well. The teddy bear sold for $3,500. A letter that Mr. Armstrong wrote to the Easter bunny as a child, asking it to “please hide our baskets” and signed “Neil,” sold for $4,000. A postcard sent to his parents from Paris in 1962 (“Having a fine time and not working too hard,” it reads) went for $1,375. The preschool report card Mr. Armstrong signed for his son Mark went for $750.

Even Mr. Armstrong’s personal collection of magazines and vinyl records — most bearing no relation to his journey to space, such as his copies of The Family Handyman and Sports Illustrated — found buyers, mostly for $200 or less.

Many of the items sold at auction — ranging from photographs in his spacesuit to personal checks — included Mr. Armstrong’s handwriting and signature, though he’d been loath to see his autographs sold when he was alive.

“He went out of his way not to make his signature available,” said Mr. Wales, the lawyer, who worked for Mr. Armstrong for more than a decade. “He realized that, yes, there were young kids who just thought it was great to get an autograph, but there were young kids who had parents who went about taking their kids’ autographs and selling them. He just didn’t like to be made a fuss over.”

In 2005, Mr. Armstrong learned that a barber had sold his hair clippings to a memorabilia collector for $3,000. He directed Mr. Wales to propose that the barber either “return the hair to Mr. Armstrong” or “donate, to a charitable organization of his choice, an amount equal to the proceeds you realized on the sale of his hair.”

In a letter to the barber, Mr. Wales cited a 1998 Ohio law that bars the unauthorized use of someone’s persona for profit, either while they are that person is alive or for 100 years after his or her death. The astronaut John Glenn, also an Ohio native, had urged the state legislature to pass the law. Mr. Armstrong felt similarly, Mr. Wales said.


CreditBill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images

When the first auction approached last year, archivists at Purdue University, Mr. Armstrong’s alma mater, issued a mild public protest. In a letter to The Times, the archivists noted that Neil and Carol Armstrong had donated more than 400 boxes of his papers to Purdue, where they had been consulted by scholars and students; used to produce books, dissertations, films and exhibits; and included in a dozen courses.

“Auctioning off historical treasures into private hands at the expense of providing access to the public is problematic,” they wrote. “Archives exist to make the remnants of history accessible and long lasting so that current and future generations have access to them.”

Mr. Pearlman, of the space memorabilia site, who said he corresponded with Mr. Armstrong before his death, said he understood the mixed feelings about such auctions, despite his own avid interest in collecting.

“I understand those who frown upon selling these items,” he said. “But what do you do with them?” He said there was no perfect path for such an inheritance.

“I can’t say Neil would or wouldn’t have wanted these auctions to happen,” Mr. Pearlman said. “I can say I don’t think there’s a clear right or wrong here.”

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Fireball over Japan part of larger asteroid that might one day hit Earth – Newshub




Watch: A mission to Bennu, an asteroid many believe will hit the Earth, is currently underway. Credits: Video – Newshub; Image – Arecibo Observatory

A fireball that lit up the Japanese skies in 2017 was a part of a big one which might one day slam into Earth, scientists have worked out.

The asteroid that burned up in the atmosphere over Kyoto in April that year was smaller than a ping pong ball, but its parent 2003 YT1 is about 2km across – the length of Auckland’s Queen St. 

Astronomers in Japan wanted to know where the tiny asteroid of 2017 came from, so mapped its trajectory closely – and found it matched up with 2003 YT1.

The mother asteroid was discovered in 2003, and orbits the sun in the same region of space as Earth. It’s classified as a potentially hazardous object, with a 6 percent chance of hitting the Earth sometime in the next 10 million years.

It’s not clear how the baby split off 2003 YT1, but as the latter is a loose clump of rocks that spins around every couple of hours, astronomers say it’s possible it was just flung into space.

2003 YT1 is so big it even has its own moon, which is wide enough to fit a couple of rugby fields. 

It was deemed a minor planet in 2007, but is yet to be given a catchier name. 

The astronomers’ findings were detailed in a paper uploaded to arxiv.org last week.


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Asteroid alert: Astronomer spots a 'potentially hazardous' 990m rock flying towards Earth – Express.co.uk




According to the astronomer, anyone with a 200mm telescope should be able to spot the rock on Friday.

But does the “potentially hazardous” asteroid pose any threat to the safety of the planet?

NASA said: “An individual’s chance of being killed by a meteorite is small, but the risk increases with the size of the impacting comet or asteroid, with the greatest risk associated with global catastrophes resulting from impacts of objects larger than one kilometre.

“NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.

“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.”

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Christina Koch and Jessica Meir Execute First All-Woman Spacewalk – Science Times




(Photo : NASA)

Friday, Oct. 18—NASA makes history once again as astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch become the first to participate in an all-women spacewalk.

The walk, streamed live by NASA on Youtube and on NASA television, lasted for seven hours and seventeen minutes. This included a five-minute call from US President Donald Trump, where he congratulated the two women for this historic achievement.

The pair was successful in replacing a power controller that failed after the installation of new lithium-ion batteries last Oct. 11 in the International Space Station’s truss structure. They also made preparations for future spacewalks.

Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan assisted the spacewalkers. Morgan provided airlock and spacesuit support while Parmitano controlled the Candarm-2, ISS’s robotic arm.

Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to conduct a spacewalk, about 35 years ago. Now, Koch and Meir make history for being part of the first all-women spacewalk. This occurs more than 50 years after humanity’s first steps on the moon. NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson hopes that this would be just a first and that this instance could become a common occurrence in the future.

“In the past, women haven’t always been at the table,” says Koch in an interview. “It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space program at a time when all contributions are being accepted when everyone has a role.” Koch also comments on how historical moments like this inspires and motivate people, which is an important aspect of this story.

Koch and Meir were part of NASA’s class of 2013, where there was a total of eight astronaut trainees. This class was notable for having an equal number of males and females in the class—a first for NASA. Six years later, NASA has 12 female astronauts and 26 male astronauts within its ranks.

This historic moment happened later than it’s supposed to be. Back in March, Koch was scheduled to participate in a spacewalk with colleague Anne McClain, but NASA had to postpone the mission after realizing that they didn’t have appropriately sized spacesuits for the two. This story created a lot of buzzes—even inspiring a Saturday Night Live skit. This delay, many believed, highlighted the challenges women face in space exploration, and, to an extent, in the scientific community.

Anne McClain is a classmate of Koch and Meir for NASA’s class of 2013 and is the first openly LGBT astronaut in space. Out of the class’s four female astronauts, their classmate Nicole Mann remains to be the only one who’s yet to participate in a spacewalk. Mann is currently assigned to Boe-CFT, the first test flight of the Boeing CSG-100 Starliner, which is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

A 30-minute in-space news conference will be held on Monday, Oct. 21, to review the first all-women spacewalk. Both Koch and Meir will participate in this conference while on-orbit. Viewers may watch the conference, which will be aired live on NASA Television and on their website.

©2017 ScienceTimes.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science times.

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