BUENOS AIRES – Astronaut Neil Armstrong, who died earlier this weekend, carried a pennant belonging to Argentina’s Independiente de Avellaneda on his history-making 1969 trip to the Moon.
Armstrong, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 82 due to complications from recent heart surgery, confirmed during a November 1969 trip to Buenos Aires that he carried the souvenir to the Moon.
The first man to walk on the Moon visited Argentina’s capital along with Apollo 11 crewmates Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins as part of a global tour organized by NASA.
Armstrong landed on the Moon with Aldrin on July 20, 1969, in the lunar module Eagle while Collins circled overhead aboard the command module Columbia.
The space pioneer said he had carried the pennant to the Moon, confirming statements by team officials that had been called into question by the public in Argentina at the time.
Hector Rodriguez, who served as Independiente’s public affairs chief at the time, proposed making Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins honorary partners in the team before Apollo 11’s voyage to the Moon.
“If they are going to be the greatest heroes of the century, they have to be Independiente partners,” Rodriguez said at the time.
Team management agreed to the deal and the three astronauts were registered as partners, with Aldrin as No. 80,399, Armstrong as No. 80,400 and Collins as No. 80,401.
Identification cards bearing photos provided by the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires were sent to the United States along with club pennants and gear for the astronauts’ children.
Armstrong thanked the team for its gesture in a May 1969 letter and said he wished to “be able to visit Buenos Aires soon and that circumstances will allow me to accept your invitation to visit the club,” an event that never took place.
Rodriguez was invited to a reception held for the astronauts in Buenos Aires by U.S. Ambassador to Argentina John Davis Lodge.
Armstrong said during the reception that the Independiente pennant brought the astronauts good luck on the trip to the Moon,
The story makes partners and fans of Independiente, which has won a record seven Libertadores Cups, proud.
The team, however, is currently struggling and could be relegated from Argentina’s First Division, something that has never happened before.