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Tributes pour in for astronaut Neil Armstrong

US President Barack Obama has led tributes for the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, who died aged 82. His family have said he suffered complications after undergoing heart surgery earlier this month.

Montage dpa/DW ARCHIV - Der US-amerikanische Astronaut Neil Armstrong, aufgenommen kurz vor dem Start von Apollo 11 im Juli 1969. Armstrong betrat am 20. Juli 1969 als erster Mensch den Mond. Das Ereignis wurde live im Fernsehen übertragen. +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++ epa03369944 (FILE) A file picture dated 18 November 2010 of Neil Armstrong, former US astronaut, speakin at the Congress Meet the Future, Science & Technology Summit 2010 at the World Forum in The Hague, Netherlands. Neil Armstrong, the 1st man on the moon, has died at age 82. EPA/MARCEL ANTONISSE *** Local Caption *** 02454676 +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

Kombibild Astronaut Neil Armstrong

US President Barack Obama paid tribute to Neil Armstrong on Saturday, describing him as "among the greatest of American heroes - not just of his time, but all time."

Hours earlier his family issued a statement confirming that the US astronaut had died at the age of 82.

Neil Armstrong steps into history July 20, 1969 by leaving the first human footprint on the surface of the moon.

'That's one small step for [a]man, one giant leap for mankind.'

"We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures," the family said. Armstrong underwent heart-bypass surgery earlier this month to relieve blocked coronary arteries.

He and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin were watched by hundreds of millions of television viewers as they landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

As he took his first steps he famously said, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

As commander of the Apollo 11 mission, the 38-year-old Armstrong was tasked with informing mission control that the module had made a successful landing. With the words "Houston, Tranquility base here, The Eagle has landed," he coined another famous phrase.

'Reluctant hero'

Despite his worldwide fame, Armstrong was known as a modest man who did not revel in his accomplishment.

Watch video 01:35

The life of an astronaut

"I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work," Armstrong said in an interview with US network CBS in 2005.

His family on Saturday described him as "a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."

Armstrong earned his pilot's license at just 16 years old and went on to serve as a US Navy aviator in the Korean War. After serving as a test pilot at the High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California he was selected by NASA to train as an astronaut in Houston Texas.

His Apollo 11 mission turned out to be his last and Armstrong retired from the National Air and Space Administration in 1971. He went on to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

ccp/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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