When made "One giant leap for mankind" on to the Moon's powdery surface, Dick Dunne, of West Islip, was back on Earth in Bethpage, awestruck, watching a technological marvel that had captivated the planet.
Dunne had literally helped write the book that Armstrong carried into space, Grumman's procedural manual that spelled out every step the astronaut would take aboard the Lunar Module, or LM, named the "Eagle."
It was a star ship built on Long Island, meticulously designed and tested in less than a decade to land a man on the Moon.
When Armstrong died on Saturday, Dunne was brought back to those thrilling, nail-biting days in July 1969, when the world watched the American crew of Apollo 11 walk on the lunar surface. Armstrong died from complications from a recent heart procedure. He was 82.
"I was saddened that he passed; he was such a part of history," said Dunne, now retired. "When people like Armstrong accomplish what they do, you kind of think of them as immortal."
But Armstrong was a man, the first to take that "one small step." He descended a narrow ladder and hopped into the dusty lunar plain called the Sea of Tranquility. The world watched it all live on TV. Legendary CBS Anchor Walter Cronkite provided live coverage from a hanger in Bethpage. The remote studio was equipped with a set to resemble the lunar surface, complete with a full-scale copy of the LM.
Grumman erupted in cheers. Cronkite rubbed his hands and was speechless. The world celebrated its first extraterrestrial space walk. Their were wild parties all over Long Island and beyond, Dunne recalled.
Armstrong returned to earth and was hailed a hero. But for the occasional interview, he remained out of public view and rarely spoke about the Moon.
"The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to," he once said, but revealed little else.
Dunne remembers Armstrong that way, as well. Dunne began his Grumman career as a technical writer in 1962. He came to know Armstrong through the "operations check procedures" manual. It was a step-by-step, space-age check list designed to ensure safety and smooth operations aboard the LM.
Grumman had been awarded the NASA contract to build a lunar orbiter, a space craft capable of separating from the main capsule Columbia, descend to the lunar surface and then blast off from the Moon to rejoin the home ship. The "lunar orbit rendezvous" differed radically from NASA's original concept, which was to separate the moon lander while in Earth's atmosphere, Dunne said.
But key NASA scientists changed their mind and made the Bethpage plant a focal point of the space race with the former Soviet Union. That brought Armstrong and Dunne in contact.
Grumman employed some 10,000 people at the height of the space program. Among them were dozens of "stand in" astronauts, test pilots who would examine every detail of the procedures inside the LM.
Frequently, the astronauts themselves would arrive in Bethpage to run through the procedures. Dunne was present at these test runs when Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who would also be aboard Apollo 11, were in town to study the procedures from inside the LM.
He got to know Armstrong well enough to be his escort around the giant aerospace plant between South Broadway and Stewart Avenue. He remembered Armstrong as "very focused."
"He was quiet and you knew he was taking it all in," said Dunne, who observed the same trait with Armstrong years later when they worked together at AIL Industries in Deer Park. Armstrong became the company's chairman in the early 1990s.
Even at AIL: "He was not given to idle talk." Dunne said. They never discussed the moon mission.
Perhaps Armstrong had said it all after Grumman's LM landed on the lunar surface.
Dunne, now 75, remembers "tearing up with relief," knowing they had touched down safely. Dunne heard Armstrong's other-worldly phrase, echoed from outer space, 238,000 miles above Bethpage:
"Houston. Tranquility Base here; The Eagle has landed."