Obama: Neil Armstrong ‘among the greatest of American heroes’

President Obama on Saturday mourned the passing of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. 

Armstrong died on Saturday at the age of 82.

Obama praised Armstrong "as among the greatest of American heroes—not just of his time, but of all time," in a statement.

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"When he and his fellow crew members lifted off aboard Apollo 11 in 1969, they carried with them the aspirations of an entire nation," Obama said. “When Neil stepped foot on the surface of the moon for the first time, he delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”

The president praised Armstrong for inspiring men and women "who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown - including those who are ensuring that we reach higher and go further in space."

"That legacy will endure - sparked by a man who taught us the enormous power of one small step," said Obama, a reference to Armstrong's famous first words on the lunar surface: "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

In an effort to trim back costs, Obama's space policy has shifted away from manned missions and put more emphasis on private space exploration. 

Armstrong himself criticized that move in 2010, warning that abandoning manned space exploration risks a "long downhill slide to mediocrity."

Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney also praised Armstrong. 

“Neil Armstrong today takes his place in the hall of heroes,” said Romney in a statement. “With courage unmeasured and unbounded love for his country, he walked where man had never walked before. The moon will miss its first son of earth.”

Romney said he last met with Armstrong a few weeks ago. “His passion for space, science and discovery, and his devotion to America will inspire me through my lifetime,” he added.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that with the death of Armstrong, a Cincinnati native, "Ohio has lost one of her proudest sons."

“A true hero has returned to the Heavens to which he once flew," Boehner said.

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