(photo by GettyImages)
Written by John Faherty, Cincinnati Enquirer
Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, told his family this was how he wanted to be buried. "It was his wish," family spokesman Rick Miller said.
Details of the burial have not been released and might not be. The Navy confirmed it would perform the ceremony, but it would not say where, when or from which ship, citing the Armstrong family's wishes for privacy. It was not known whether the burial will be a full-body burial or a dropping of ashes.
"He's a Navy man," said fellow astronaut and longtime friend Jim Lovell.
Armstrong's Navy career began in 1947 when he enlisted in the Naval ROTC and went to college at Purdue University in Indiana. From that moment forward, many of the most significant events of his life involved the water. By 1950, at the age of 20, he was stationed on the USS Essex, about 100 miles off of Wonsan Bay in the Sea of Japan. He flew 78 combat missions, and after each of them, he would fly back over the water toward the safety of the Essex.
In March 1966, after a successful but harrowing trip aboard Gemini 8, Armstrong went through re-entry before three parachutes opened and he dropped into the Pacific Ocean.
In July 1969, after Armstrong landed on the moon, Armstrong and his crew splashed down in the Pacific, where they were picked up by the USS Hornet.
Returning to the water meant his mission was complete, Lovell said.
"It's how he knew he was finished," Lovell said. "It's how he knew his work was done."
According to naval regulations, in a burial involving casketed remains, taps will be played, there will be a prayer, a firing of arms, a salute, and then the board holding the casket will be tilted forward, and the casket will slide into the sea. The ceremony for cremated remains is similar.
The Navy performs, on average, approximately 900 burials at sea each year. "It's not as rare as you might think," Navy spokesman Ed Ziegler said.
A public memorial service for Armstrong will be held Sept. 13 at Washington National Cathedral. Political leaders and NASA astronauts, active and retired, are likely to attend.