Neil Armstrong

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th October 2012.

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Photo of John Scott John Scott Conservative

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S4M-03911, in the name of Willie Coffey, on Neil Armstrong. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with sadness the death of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon and commander of Apollo 11, which landed on the Moon on 20 July 1969; recognises the significant human and scientific achievement made by the Apollo 11 team of Neil Armstrong, lunar module pilot, Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot, Michael Collins; notes Neil Armstrong’s family connections with the town of Langholm in Scotland, and echoes the sentiments expressed by commander Armstrong as he set foot on the moon when he said, “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

With great pleasure, I offer a few words in memory of Commander Neil Alden Armstrong, who died in August this year.

As everyone surely knows, Commander Armstrong was the first man to set foot on the moon on 20 July 1969. From that moment, he became a hero to not only the American people, but the people of the world. His carefully prepared line:

“That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind”,

which he said as he stepped from the ladder of the lunar module on to the moon’s powdery surface, is surely one of the most significant and enduring quotations in human history. It announced that we, as a species, had made the first journey from earth to another world.

Neil Armstrong was born in Ohio in America in 1930. He was the oldest of three children and was of Scottish and German ancestry. I have no doubt that other members will reflect on his family connections with Langholm. I have watched a clip of the 1972 ceremony, and it is possible to see the sense of pride that Neil Armstrong had in his Scottish roots when he accepted an invitation, only three years after the landing, to become a freeman of the muckle toon.

He could fly planes before he could drive a car. At 15, he got his first flight certificate. He served his country from 1949 to 1952 and, as a pilot during the Korean war, survived by ejecting from his fighter plane. He had to repeat that feat some years later when testing a prototype of the lunar module, which was nicknamed the flying bedstead. Apparently, he ejected from it with less than a second to spare, walked back to his office and got on with his work while the prototype vehicle exploded in flames.

A masters graduate of aeronautical engineering, he became an astronaut in 1962, first commanding the two-man Gemini craft before the more famous three-man Apollo programme was initiated. Then, of course, the most famous journey in the history of man was being planned. In 1961, President John F Kennedy stated the aim that America would land a man on the moon—and get him back safely—by the end of the decade. So it proved.

The Apollo missions began and gradually got closer to the moon without landing there until, in 1969, Apollo 11, with Commander Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, took off from Cape Kennedy in the magnificent Saturn V rocket on 16 July. Their mission was indeed, in the words of the famous science fiction series “Star Trek”, to go where no man had gone before, land on the moon and get back safely, but it was science fact—it was actually happening.

I recall being totally gripped as an 11-year-old by that adventure and the five-day journey to get to the moon. For a young boy or girl who was interested in science in those days, it was the dream of a lifetime to be able to witness a spacecraft leaving earth and landing on what we then called another planet. I remember having a huge wall poster that showed all the planned stages of the journey.

The mission was, of course, a stunning success. While Michael Collins orbited the moon in the command module Columbia, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made the descent to the lunar surface. In typical fashion, Commander Armstrong had to take manual control of the lunar module—or the eagle, as they called it—and he put the vehicle on the surface with about 45 seconds of fuel remaining, which was an experience that he was well used to.

Roughly 100 hours after the launch, Commander Neil Armstrong descended the ladder, uttered his immortal words and made history. It is a lovely thought that the moon’s first-foot should be a wonderful man with a strong Scottish connection. Buzz Aldrin joined him 20 minutes later and, together, they spent only about two and a half hours on the surface, collecting samples, taking pictures and filming, before blasting off to rejoin their colleague for the journey home.

To say that they received a hero’s welcome would be an understatement. In those days, the Apollo crafts landed in the sea to be picked up by American aircraft carriers. On they went to a life that, for them, was changed forever.

In 2008, Commander Armstrong was recognised by the University of Edinburgh, which awarded him an honorary degree. I recommend watching his speech, during which he told the fascinating story of how he had discovered that two of his most revered scientists of all time—our own James Watt and Benjamin Franklin—were already members of a lunar society in the 18th century. He had to find out whether their research could help him on his Apollo missions.

He even spoke in a Scottish accent as he recounted how, to his surprise and amusement, he discovered that the two gentlemen could best get home from the meetings at which they were reasonably regular attenders, after having enjoyed some conversation, whisky, dinner and claret, through the darkened streets of Birmingham when the moon was full, so their regular monthly gatherings became known as meetings of the lunar society.

Neil Armstrong, our reluctant and gentle hero, revelled in telling that story in Edinburgh, and the warmth of the manner in which he recounted it tells us something about the love and the passion that he had for science and our achievements throughout the centuries.

Neil Armstrong is one of the greatest heroes of all time. When the memory of other individual achievements fades with the passing of time, his name will stand out proudly for ever more. Centuries will pass, but he will always be the first man to have set foot on another world—an ambassador for the human race and for peace.

The eagle landed in 1969, and it will forever remain a symbol of man’s achievements in space. I hope that it will also remind future generations that a very special man took to the skies on our behalf and came back safely to relive the dream with us.

Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

I congratulate Willie Coffey on securing the debate. It is fitting that our Parliament pays tribute to Neil Armstrong, who was a pioneer in so many respects. As well as being the first human being to set foot on the surface of the moon, he was the first person to be made a freeman of the burgh of Langholm in Dumfriesshire. I am delighted to support the efforts of the townspeople and the Clan Armstrong Trust to conduct their own commemoration of Mr Armstrong’s life and achievements and, in particular, his 1972 visit to the town. I understand that that commemoration will go ahead next year and that it will be a major event.

Shortly before his death, Neil Armstrong gave a rare interview to—bizarrely—an Australian website that was linked to a professional accountancy body. It was a great scoop for the journalist concerned. It appears that Mr Armstrong agreed to the interview as a tribute to his father, who had been an auditor.

In the interview, Neil Armstrong said that he thought that it was a pity that the cause of space exploration had become a political football and that it was disparaged by those who considered it a waste of time and money. He told the interviewer:

NASA has been one of the most successful public investments in motivating students to do well and achieve all they can achieve. It’s sad that we are turning the program in a direction where it will reduce the amount of motivation and stimulation it provides to young people.”

NASA plays a leading role in education in America, where it organises study trips for children of all ages. This year, it celebrated a summer of innovation, which was aimed at stimulating through practical experiment children’s interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—STEM—subjects.

It is fitting that we in Scotland have taken on board Neil Armstrong’s concerns and that we use space exploration to inspire young people to pursue careers in engineering and technology. For 10 years, our young people have had the opportunity to participate in the Scottish space school, which is a collaboration between NASA and the University of Strathclyde.

The space school aims to provide inspiration, increase motivation and raise young people’s aspirations in relation to STEM subjects. Since the space school’s inception in 2002, 1,300 pupils from high schools across Scotland have taken part in it. Of them, 400 have now graduated and are employed in well-paid science and technology jobs.

I can testify to the programme’s effectiveness on a personal level. When she was just 16, my eldest daughter won a place on it and spent a life-transforming week at NASA’s base in Houston, Texas with 25 other young Scots. They worked with astronauts and engineers, learned about the latest futuristic technology and came away inspired.

Like many young women, my daughter had previously thought about applying for an arts degree, but the trip to Houston changed all that by teaching her that engineering was a creative and exciting occupation. She went on to study mechanical engineering. She is now 23 and is working for a Scottish company that services the oil and gas industry and the renewables industry in the North Sea.

This week—tomorrow, in fact—another cohort of young Scots from the Scottish space school will head to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. I will name them. I give my best wishes to Francesca Capaldi, Niall Ferguson, Yola Jones, Susie Little, Stephen Lynas, Kirsty McLachlan, Lewis Miller, Ben McSeveney, Eilidh Oliphant and Zoe Parker. I am sure that we all wish them the very best and hope that they turn out to be our engineers of the future.

The Scottish space school’s motto is:

“The sky is NOT the limit”.

That is highly appropriate not just for our young people, but for our nation. I am sure that Neil Armstrong would have approved of that motto.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I, too, congratulate Mr Coffey on securing the debate. We should mark the passing of Neil Armstrong not just because of his links to Scotland, but because of the significance of the first moon landing. Like Mr Coffey, I remember getting up to watch it on television. I fear that I was 12, not 11, but anyone who is our age remembers the event. It provided a sense not just of watching history being made, but of sharing the event with the whole of humankind.

Armstrong was the first of only 12 who have walked on the moon’s surface. None of them was the same when they returned. To look back at our earth and see it as it really is provides a life-changing perspective that we can only imagine. Armstrong always carried that profound knowledge with grace and humility.

Armstrong gained that knowledge with courage. We should not forget that Apollo 11 travelled to the moon with a guidance system that had less processing power than the washing machine in my kitchen, never mind the smartphone in my pocket. As Mr Coffey said, Armstrong landed the lunar module manually and set it down on the Sea of Tranquillity with seconds of fuel left.

We are politicians, and we should remember that Armstrong’s mission was political. When Kennedy told Congress that the US would put a man on the moon, no one knew how that could be done. That was politics, not science, and pretty venal politics at that. The task was launched by a supposedly vigorous new President who, in truth, could stand up only with the aid of a back brace and a toxic cocktail of stimulants. The challenge was to a supposedly modern nation but, in fact, tens of millions of its own people were denied the vote and even the right to sit, eat or study alongside their white compatriots in those days. The aspiration was supposedly noble but, in fact, it was driven by the basest of desires—to dominate the cold war world through barefaced bravado. Yet with the words,

“one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind”,

Armstrong transcended all that to make us proud. Even his fluffing of the words simply serves to remind us that we are fallible, but capable of greatness.

In chambers such as this, we spend our days debating ideas of the nation state, democratic socialism or free markets whose roots lie in the 19th century or even the 18th century, but in the 21st century, somehow we can no longer raise ourselves to Armstrong’s 20th century achievement or find it within ourselves to reach for the stars. We cannot know what otherworldly landscapes Armstrong walks now or what infinite horizon he scans, if any, but we know for sure that we will follow him there one day. However, we have turned away from following that small step that he took in 1969.

My head tells me that we cannot afford to push beyond the boundaries of our own world while so many in it suffer so much, but as we wrestle with issues that seem so great and intractable to us, knowing that they must have looked so much smaller and more manageable from the Sea of Tranquillity, my heart asks whether we can afford not to push the limits of our own possibility in the way that Neil Armstrong did in 1969.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The story of Neil Armstrong is the story of what a country can achieve when it cleaves to its bosom the highest of ambitions. It was, of course, driven by the flight on 12 April 1961 of Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union, who went for a single orbit around the earth. That was the ultimate, highest and greatest of game changers.

When, on 25 May 1961—only a few weeks after that flight—John F Kennedy set his country on the path that took Americans to the moon, that was deemed to be absolutely impossible. No one knew how to do it or that it could be done. There were huge technical challenges to be overcome.

The leading plans—there were four alternatives—relied on the rendezvous of space vehicles in orbit around the moon. That had never been done around the earth at that stage, far less around the moon. The onboard navigational computer to which Iain Gray referred—the Apollo guidance computer—had only 1.3W of electricity and only 2,000 words of computer memory to do its computations.

Some of the challenges were organisational. The programme involved 400,000 people and 20,000 firms and universities. As an organisational challenge in a short period of time, it was beyond previous contemplation.

When Neil Armstrong stepped on to Apollo 11 with his fellow astronauts, he knew that the flight was not without risk. Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died on Apollo 1 in a flash fire on the launch pad and Vladimir Komarov was the first cosmonaut to be killed during space flight, on Soyuz 1. Like Gus Grissom, Vladimir Komarov was the first person from his nation to fly twice in space.

There were aspects of the programme that are perhaps little known and little regarded. Almost all the mathematical computations were undertaken by women. NASA decided to employ all-women teams to do the calculations because they were deemed to be more reliable and it was deemed that better intuition could be applied by the women. That built on the previous experience of Rear-Admiral Grace Hopper, who was the first computer programmer in the electronic age—Lord Byron’s niece, Ada Lovelace, was the first at all, of course.

I had the good fortune in the early 1990s to stay for three nights with a guy called Lanny Lafferty, who worked for the jet propulsion laboratory. He was the man who designed and operated the first robot hand that grasped Martian soil. There is so much in the programme that is absolutely fascinating and it has contributed so much—Teflon, for example, and the computer that was the first to be built on integrated computer chips.

In today’s modern world, we owe so much to this programme, but above all we owe so much to Neil Armstrong, who put his life on the line to inspire us and to inspire others. Ambition, courage and fine management delivered, but Neil Armstrong put his life on the line. Thank you, Neil Armstrong.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I, too, congratulate Willie Coffey on bringing this motion celebrating the life of Neil Armstrong to the chamber, not least because I submitted a motion along very similar lines.

Like Willie Coffey and Iain Gray, I am one of the members of this Parliament who is old enough to remember the excitement of the first moon landings. I am not saying how old I was at the time because I am slightly older than them. We had 10 days of BBC and ITV coverage, starting on 16 July with the launch of the Apollo 11, and we had the first-ever all-night broadcast on British television, recording Neil Armstrong stepping on to the surface of the moon at 3.56 am British time, followed 20 minutes later by Buzz Aldrin. I think that the first images were upside down and had to be rotated so that we could see what was going on.

Looking back—as Stewart Stevenson and Iain Gray have said—from this time of the mobile phone and the iPad to the technology that was available in 1969 makes the achievement of the moon landing seem even more remarkable. Mr Stevenson has quoted some figures around the computing strength at the time—quite remarkable.

The moon landings inspired people of every generation. My grandparents were born at the turn of the previous century when people hardly even saw a motor car and a lot of people believed that the moon was made out of green cheese. My grandparents were absolutely astonished that in their lifetime a man managed to walk on the moon.

In the 40 or so years since, technology has advanced at an even greater pace—partly, as has been said, due to the developments associated with space travel, such as the internet. Iain Gray rightly pointed out the motivation behind the space programme but, through that expenditure, there was a huge improvement in technology. One of the things that inspires me and surprises me a bit now is the fact that technology now looks at very tiny horizons. Our technology is letting us look right inside the atom, to the sub-atomic particles, through the large hadron collider. When we think of the advances over 100 years, including a man on the moon and finding the Higgs boson, we see the remarkable achievements of science.

As MSP for Dumfriesshire, I want to mention the Langholm connection. The Armstrongs are one of the Borders clans—they originated in Cumbria but later relocated to Liddesdale, Annandale and Eskdale. The town clerk for Langholm at the time of the moon landings was one Eddie Armstrong, and he hit upon the idea of inviting his famous distant relative to become a freeman of the muckle toon. He was ably assisted in this endeavour by his deputy town clerk, Grace Brown, who—I am happy to say—is still an active member of the Langholm community more than 40 years later. Indeed, she organises the wonderful Langholm common riding breakfast every year.

Although Neil Armstrong was born in Ohio and had not lived in Scotland, like many citizens of the United States he was proud of his Scottish ancestry and, much to the surprise of the town, he accepted the invitation and the honour was conferred in Langholm parish church on 11 March 1972, when he visited the town as part of his world tour. At the time, he stated that he considered Langholm to be his home town. Neil Armstrong, as Joan McAlpine said, was the first freeman of the burgh of Langholm. For a long time he was the only one until just this month, when he was joined by a very worthy fellow freeman in David Stevenson. Mr Stevenson’s honour was announced shortly before Neil Armstrong’s death, when he was not very well at all. Despite Neil Armstrong’s ill health, he took the trouble to send Mr Stevenson a fulsome message of congratulation, saying that he could think of no one who deserved the honour more. That says an awful lot about the sort of person that Neil Armstrong was.

Photo of George Adam George Adam Scottish National Party

The year 1969 started quite quietly, on a Wednesday, which was a strange start for such a decade-defining—or even world-defining—year. It was an important year for me, because it was the year that I was born.

I was there to witness the moon landing but I was only one month old at the time, so it is more from watching newsreels and films at a later date that I have seen everything that happened.

In that year, there were quite a lot of other groundbreaking things happening in the world. There was an ideal in those days, as Iain Gray said, that was all about looking at the big idea and the big picture, reaching for the stars and trying to be all that we could be. At that time, the first Concorde test flight took place and the Boeing 747 made its maiden flight.

There were big issues in 1969, and we must ask ourselves, “Where have we gone?” As children of the 1970s, we grew up wanting to be astronauts. My mother’s friends would say to her, “What does George want to be this week?” and she would say, “George wants to be an astronaut.”

As members can see, that did not work out—although some people might say that we in the Parliament are wired to the moon sometimes. I obviously had political ambitions, and when I found out that Neil Armstrong was an aerospace engineer as well as an astronaut, I realised that that was probably a wee bit too much for me to try to take on at that stage.

In the 1970s, space exploration was one of the most important things for us as children growing up. It was constantly there in literature and on television, and absolutely everywhere that we went.

I was looking at some of the information on Neil Armstrong, and it was interesting to read that he started off in 1958 in the US air force’s man in space soonest programme. That does not sound like the sexiest of titles for a space programme, but its aim was to design a space plane that would go up and deliver satellites and come back down again. It is funny how some of the ideas from the past end up coming full circle; we are still talking about some of those things and developing them now.

The funny thing was that the programme was cancelled only just before the plane went into full production, and Neil Armstrong was one of only two of the pilots in the programme who actually went to space in the end.

As other members have said, on April 12 1961 Yuri Gagarin officially started the space race by being the first man in space. Kennedy made his speech at Rice University on September 12, 1962, in which he said those famous words:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”.

Those lines alone define that era and exactly what everyone was trying to achieve.

It was a case not of, “We cannot do that”, but of “We cannot do it, but let’s try and achieve it anyway.” That is a lesson that we have to learn, because we have lost our vision as politicians and as a community. We have lost the idea of looking at the big issues and the big world-changing ideals. As my colleague Stewart Stevenson said, so many practical things came out of the Apollo missions.

I and some of my younger members of staff have often talked about getting one of the Apollo 11 models and putting it in my office, just to remind us that we can achieve the impossible. Everyone, including the engineers, was told that there was no way that they could do it, and that it was not achievable with the technology that they had then, but they achieved it and showed the world. To this day, we are still talking about those things.

Much of what I was thinking about saying has already been said, but I will finish by saying that Neil Armstrong had a profound effect on my life. It sounds pretty incredible that a young boy from Paisley could be motivated by the first man on the moon, but his actions in July 1969 taught me that we can look at the stars and dream, or we can work hard, set targets for ourselves and achieve what is perceived to be the impossible. That seems to me to be not a bad legacy to leave.

Photo of Jamie McGrigor Jamie McGrigor Conservative

I formally apologise to the Presiding Officer and members in the chamber, especially Willie Coffey, for missing the start of the debate.

I congratulate Willie Coffey on securing today’s debate. On behalf of the Scottish Conservatives, I extend our sympathies to the Armstrong family on the passing of one of the truly iconic figures of the 20th century and truly the bravest of the brave.

The landing on the moon was unforgettable to those who experienced it. Our generation had in some ways been conditioned to expect and await that achievement by space programmes, including the fictional “Star Trek”. The importance of man going where man had never trod before was taken for granted and it was felt that it was worth every penny; it was never questioned that it was the right thing to do.

Seeing William Shatner, or Captain Kirk of the starship Enterprise, speaking on “Hardtalk” on the BBC the other night, I was reminded of how his crew was made up of so many different nationalities, including of course a Scotsman—who will ever forget “Beam me up, Scotty”?—all trying to contribute towards a force for good. Although it was fictional, it was indeed inspiring and space travel gripped the world audience in a way that it does not do now.

The moon landing was a wonderful moment for Scotland and the United Kingdom, as the name Armstrong has such strong connections to the Scottish Borders, where Neil’s kinsmen originally came from. As well as creating excitement, the moon landing created a sense of optimism that man could look beyond mere earthly realms to a future of exploring the universe through international co-operation.

Willie Coffey is right to highlight Neil Armstrong’s family connections to Scotland. In 2009, I highlighted in a parliamentary motion the award from the University of Strathclyde of an honorary doctorate for William S McArthur Jnr, one of the most distinguished and impressive astronauts in recent NASA history and currently director of safety and mission assurance at the Lyndon B Johnson space centre and a winner of the NASA space flight medal and NASA distinguished service medal. I met Mr McArthur a few years ago, as he too has Scottish connections, through family roots in Argyll. I contacted him again in advance of today’s debate and I will quote what he said:

“On 1 July 1969, I entered West Point. My class faced a future dominated by Vietnam and the Cold War. On the evening of July 20th, finishing our third week as New Cadets, we marched en masse to a large auditorium to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. It was stirring to witness such a positive achievement in the context of the dangerous future which we, as future Army leaders, faced. Did the Moon landing that night inspire me to be an astronaut? Not immediately, but it certainly firmly planted the idea that this was the pinnacle of human endeavour. The professional, unassuming way in which Neil Armstrong served provided an example we all strove to emulate. As my career progressed and the opportunity to apply to be an astronaut opened, the example set by Neil and his fellow early astronauts set the benchmark against which all of us aviators and engineers were measured. Many years later, lecturing Cadets in that same auditorium, I felt humbled to have had the opportunity to have followed along the same path travelled by Neil, if only for a short distance. Not to the Moon, but at least out of the grasp of gravity, to view earth from orbit. Each mission, one more “small step” for humankind.”

I thank Bill McArthur for sending me those words. Neil Armstrong’s achievement and legacy continue to inspire people of all ages across the planet.

Now, people’s attention is switching from the moon to Mars, the red planet, and I noted on the BBC website that the roving robotic laboratory that is exploring the red planet has identified an area that they have called Glenelg and that the people of the Highland village of Glenelg have seen fit to twin with that. So, I hope that the Martians will one day come and enjoy a good dram with their counterparts opposite the isle of Skye.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

Others have given very eloquent accounts of Neil Armstrong’s life and achievements. Perhaps I can add to them—without intending to be in any way flippant—by saying that it was thanks to Neil Armstrong that I first learned as a child of the existence of the town of Langholm. It was only some 25 miles away from where I lived, but in the Scottish Borders—with all that that traditionally implies—that was indeed a giant leap.

I mention that because, as others have said, one of the many generous things about the late Neil Armstrong was his willingness to work to inspire a whole generation about science—something of which his famous 1972 trip to Scotland and his on-going connections with his ancestral town were but parts.

I am grateful to Willie Coffey for giving us the opportunity to reflect on Neil Armstrong’s achievements and to restate our commitment to encouraging Scots of all ages to take inspiration from him and to strive to achieve new things in their lives and for their communities. Unlike Mr Adam, I had not quite arrived in this world when the moon landing happened, but I share his recollection of the importance of the space race and the culture around it to a generation of children.

During our debate, we have remembered Neil Armstrong as the first person to step on to the surface of another world. It is difficult to overstate what a transformation that represented, not only in our understanding of space, but in our dramatic new understanding of the earth. Perhaps the most influential of all the photographs that were taken from the moon was that of the earth. It was the first time that humans had truly seen their planet in its entirety. That point was well made by Mr Gray.

Perhaps less well recognised—although it was alluded to today—is the fact that Armstrong and his crew were exposed to significant personal danger. As Willie Coffey mentioned, in the minute before the lunar module was due to land on the moon, Armstrong realised that its trajectory was such that it was heading for a rock. Not only did Armstrong safely take manual control, as we heard, but he skilfully balanced the need to use extra fuel to reach the ground against the need to conserve enough fuel in the tank to be able to take off again from the moon’s surface. Having discovered that the ascent engine’s ignition switch was broken, the astronauts improvised a fix using part of a ballpoint pen to activate the module’s launch sequence.

All that ingenuity enabled them to return home—something that was, as Stewart Stevenson mentioned, by no means regarded as a foregone conclusion. Indeed, such was the doubt about whether the astronauts would get off the moon that President Nixon had two different speeches prepared to read out to the nation.

As Ms McAlpine reminded us, today’s debate is an opportunity to celebrate Scotland’s international standing in space research and satellite systems development. We have a national space technology centre, and Scottish Enterprise is working to develop a space innovation partnership to further promote excellence here. Scotland of course has long had a pioneering scientific research base, too, which is well illustrated by the recent work and achievements of Professor Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, whom I am pleased Elaine Murray mentioned. Having had a flash of inspiration in 1964 while he was out walking in the Cairngorms, he went on to propose the existence of a particle that is now called the Higgs boson. This summer, the European Organization for Nuclear ResearchCERN—announced the discovery of supportive experimental evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson—a particle that is often referred to as the most sought-after particle in modern physics.

Earlier this month, the First Minister opened the new Scottish dark sky observatory near Dalmellington, within Galloway dark sky park, which is supported by the Scottish Government. As the only gold standard dark sky park to have an observatory, it will provide a good focal point for people to capitalise on the excellent star-gazing opportunities there.

Scotland’s links to space travel continue. Following in Neil Armstrong’s inspiring footsteps at NASA is space shuttle commander Bonnie Dunbar, whose grandparents were from Dundee and Banff. Dr Dunbar, I am pleased to say, took a saltire into space. She recently travelled back to Scotland by more conventional means to help to promote an event at Glenelg to celebrate the fact that there is, as Mr McGrigor mentioned, now a Glenelg on Mars.

Advances in science and technology will continue to help to underpin not only our economy but our culture. We must continue to nurture them, both by attracting leading researchers from around the world and by ensuring that our young people have educations that can lead to similar pioneering careers in science and engineering here in Scotland.

Today, however, the Scottish Parliament is honoured, along with countless organisations and bodies around the world, to recognise the sheer scale of Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind”. Landing on the moon was the act of a truly pioneering spirit and a triumph for all who are able to use discovery and ingenuity to find practical solutions to unexpected problems. Those same qualities help people and nations to prosper, which is why Neil Armstrong’s enduring contribution is his continuing ability to inspire young people to strive to be the very best that they can be.

13:15 Meeting suspended.

14:30 On resuming—