NEW YORK —Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died Saturday.
He was 82 and lived in Cincinnati. His death was announced by his family in a statement, but it did not say where Mr. Armstrong died.
Mr. Armstrong underwent bypass surgery this month to relieve blocked coronary arteries, according to family and friends. His recovery had been going well, according to those who spoke with him after the surgery, and his death came as a surprise to many close to him, including his fellow Apollo astronauts.
As commander of the Apollo 11 mission, Mr. Armstrong, with one short sentence on July 20, 1969, became a hero to the millions of people watching back on earth.
The words he spoke upon stepping onto the lunar surface — ‘‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’’ — were beamed live into homes around the world, captivating viewers and immediately and indelibly becoming a symbol of America’s resolve and ingenuity in its race against the Soviet Union for supremacy in space.
It was a singular achievement for humanity and the culmination of a goal that President John F. Kennedy had set eight years earlier with his bold statement: ‘‘I believe this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.’’
Mr. Armstrong’s family, in a statement, praised him as a ‘‘loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.’’
‘‘Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job,’’ the family said. ‘‘He served his nation proudly, as a Navy fighter pilot, test pilot and astronaut.’’
Neil Alden Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, near Wapakoneta, Ohio, and he would maintain a connection with his home state his entire life.
In 1947, Mr. Armstrong began studying aeronautical engineering at Purdue University on a Navy scholarship, according to his official biography. His studies were interrupted in 1949 when he was called to serve in the Korean War, where he flew 78 combat missions. He left the service in 1952, and returned to college to finish his degree. He later earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.
In 1955, he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which later became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and worked as an engineer, test pilot, and administrator. As a test pilot, he flew some of the most innovative and dangerous aircraft ever developed, more than 200 models. Perhaps the best known of these was the X-15, which reached speeds of 4,000 miles per hour, according to his biography on the NASA website.
He became an astronaut in 1962 and was the command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission in 1966, when he performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.
Three year later, Mr. Armstrong was 38 when he piloted the lunar module to the surface of the moon, a delicate operation that required precise calculations to ensure that the vehicle landed unscathed.
He and his copilot, Air Force Colonel Buzz Aldrin, landed the module in a rock-strewn plain near the southwestern shore of the Sea of Tranquillity. The third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, remained in the command ship circling the moon.
The world breathed a collective sigh when Mr. Armstrong was heard telling mission control, ‘‘Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.’’
‘‘Roger, Tranquillity,’’ mission control replied. ‘‘We copy you on the ground. You’ve got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.’’
About six and a half hours after landing, Mr. Armstrong opened the hatch on the four-legged lunar module, slowly made his way down the ladder and planted the first human footprint on the lunar crust. A crater near the site of the landing was later named in his honor.
After leaving the space program, Mr. Armstrong was careful to do nothing to tarnish that image or achievement. Though he traveled and gave speeches — like in October 2007, when he dedicated the new Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering at Purdue — he rarely gave interviews and avoided the spotlight.
‘‘He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits,’’ his family said.
He later found success in both business and academia.
Mr. Armstrong married Carol Knight in 1994, and the couple lived in Indian Hill, a Cincinnati suburb. In addition to his wife, he leaves two sons, Eric and Mark, from his first marriage to Janet Shearon. He also had a daughter with Shearon in 1959, but the girl, Karen, died of an inoperable brain tumor in 1962.
Almost as soon as the news of his death was announced, there was an outpouring of well wishes and fond memorials on websites and social media, a reflection of the extraordinary public acclaim that came to a very private man.
‘‘As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life,’’ his family said. ‘‘While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.’’