WASHINGTON — The nation bid farewell Thursday to Neil Armstrong, the first man to take a giant leap onto the moon.
The pioneers of space, the powerful of the capital and the everyday public crowded into the Washington National Cathedral for a public interfaith memorial for the very private astronaut.
Armstrong, who died last month in Ohio at age 82, walked on the moon in July 1969.
"He's now slipped the bonds of Earth once again, but what a legacy he left," former Treasury Secretary John Snow told the gathering.
Apollo 11 crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, Mercury astronaut John Glenn, 18 other astronauts, three NASA chiefs and about two dozen members of Congress were among the estimated 1,500 people that joined Armstrong's widow, Carol, and other family members in the cavernous cathedral.
Collins read a prayer tailored to Armstrong's accomplishments and humility. A moon rock that the Apollo 11 astronauts gave the church in 1974 is embedded in one of its stained glass windows.
"You have now shown once again the pathway to the stars," Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon said in a tribute to Armstrong. "As you soar through the heavens beyond even where eagles dare to go, you can now finally put out your hand and touch the face of God."