An artist's rendering of an Armstrong-class oceanographic research ship. The first such vessel, which will be named after astronaut and former Navy aviator Neil Armstrong, is set to join the fleet in 2014. (Navy)
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Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced that a class of research ships will be named after the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk the surface of the moon and a legend of naval aviation.
The first of two Armstrong-class auxiliary general oceanographic research ships will bear his name; his widow, Carol, will sponsor the vessel.
Armstrong, who is best known for his accomplishments with the Apollo program, was a naval aviator first, catching his first wire in an F8F-1 Bearcat on the deck of the light carrier Cabot. His career as a naval aviator included 80 combat missions during the Korean War.
"Neil Armstrong rightly belongs to the ages as the man who first walked on the moon. While he was a true pioneer of space exploration and science, he was also a combat-proven naval aviator. Naming this class of ships and this vessel after Neil Armstrong honors the memory of an extraordinary individual, but more importantly, it reminds us all to embrace the challenges of exploration and to never stop discovering," Mabus said in a statement released Monday.
Armstrong died Aug. 25 at age 82.
The 238-foot-long Armstrong-class ships will be loaded with acoustic equipment to map the ocean and modular laboratories used by 24 scientists onboard. They will have 20-member civilian crews and operate under the Office of Naval Research.
The first ship in the class is being built in Anacortes, Wash., by Dakota Creek Industries. It's expected to enter service in 2014, followed by the second, currently unnamed ship in 2015.