JERUSALEM – Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, answered questions from Israeli children Tuesday in his first visit to the Holy Land, showing animation and energy in discussing the feelings and justification for space travel.
Armstrong was invited by a local investment company to lecture on the subject of motivation. In the morning, he visited the Space and Technology Museum in Haifa, where he talked to a group of children, museum spokeswoman Ahuva Kfir said.
Armstrong, 77, was the first astronaut to walk on the surface of the moon, landing there on July 20, 1969. He has stayed mostly out of the public eye since leaving the space program.
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At the museum, dressed casually and wearing black-rimmed glasses, he sat on a small stage answering questions, in video broadcast by Israeli TV stations.
Armstrong said that despite scientific determinations that there was no life on the moon, he was hoping to find something, even discarded cans, "but there was nothing." He said he was "surprised that we succeeded in landing on the moon on our first try."
Asked what lasting value the flights to the moon had, Armstrong responded they showed that "the human species, all of us, is not forever chained to the planet Earth." He added, "I hope that man continues to expand his and her presence in space in the years ahead."
Armstrong had advice for youngsters who want to be an astronaut one day: "That requires getting a very good education, particularly in the fields of science and mathematics."
Israel's only astronaut to take part in a space flight, Col. Ilan Ramon, was killed in the disintegration of the Columbia space shuttle on Feb. 1, 2003, along with the other six crew members. But Armstrong had only warm words about space travel.
"How does it feel to be inside a space ship?" a small girl asked him. With a huge smile, Armstrong replied, "You would like it."
Asked if he would take a second chance to go back to the moon today, Armstrong jumped to his feet and said, "Of course," and embracing the questioner, a teenage boy, asking him if he would like to come along.
Armstrong left Israel Tuesday evening without talking to reporters.