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Memorials to Neil Armstrong taking shape: Flags to fly at half-staff

The astronaut who became the first man to walk on the moon has died at the age of 82. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports on tributes for him and the legacy he left behind.

U.S. flags will be flying at half-staff around the world "as a mark of respect for the memory of Neil Armstrong," the first man to walk on the moon, President Barack Obama proclaimed today.

The half-staff tribute will take place on the day of Armstrong's burial and last until sunset. Exactly when will that be? Friday is the likeliest day — but the plans for memorials are still taking shape, two days after Armstrong died of complications from heart surgery at the age of 82.

Today, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs tweeted that a private, family memorial service would take place on Friday in Cincinnati, near the Armstrong family home in Indian Hill, Ohio. The Associated Press also said services would be held Friday. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican who's a friend of the family, is due to give the eulogy, AP reported.

NASA Headquarters in Washington said that the details for the private as well as public memorial services were still in flux. "No details yet for a public memorial," Jacobs wrote.

Meanwhile, formal and informal memorials to the first moonwalker are proliferating. The Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, where Armstrong was born, is planning a memorial tribute on Wednesday night.

NASA has set up a "Share Your Thoughts" website where condolences can be left. There's also a "Wink at the Moon Night" website, sparked by the Armstrong family's request to look at the moon, "think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink." The website is part of a campaign to make Aug. 25, the date of Armstrong's death, an annual Wink at the Moon Night.

Photoillustration by Jason Major via Twitter

Jason Major made alterations in a classic picture of the U.S. flag on the moon to pay a half-staff tribute to Neil Armstrong. See the picture on Twitter and visit Major's Lights in the Dark blog.

NBC News' Cape Canaveral correspondent, Jay Barbree, told me in an email that the thought behind the request for winks was clear: "The family means that's where he'll be — on the moon."

As I gave a wink last Saturday night, it struck me that the moon was already flying at half-staff, just one day after its first-quarter phase. Friday's full moon will be the second full moon of the month, and thus will mark a rare "blue moon." Armstrong's passing will surely make this moon as blue as it can be.

Tributes are continuing to stream in from VIPs. Here are a few that have crossed our desk since Saturday:

Robert Zubrin, president, Mars Society: "Neil Armstrong was a patriot and a pioneer.  In every way he was an exemplar of the great human spirit which seeks to go where no one has gone, to know what has never been known, to do what has never been done.  His life's story calls to all of us to rise to our own higher natures, just as his immortal words when first setting foot on our neighbor world challenge us.  Will the Apollo 11 mission ultimately be remembered as a 'giant leap for mankind,' the first step in opening an infinite frontier?  Or will it recede into history as merely a grand stunt that led nowhere?  The answer to that question is up to us.  Let us therefore reflect on this great and good man's life, and resolve to find and summon to action the Neil Armstrong within ourselves, so that he, and the nation that dared with him, did not dare in vain."

Frank DiBello, president, Space Florida: "Although Neil Armstrong had grown disillusioned with the debate, uncertainty and acrimony in Washington surrounding the post-shuttle direction of NASA, he remained a passionate and compelling advocate of the human exploration of space. We owe it to his memory to continue that quest. Indeed, our memory of this grand achievement is our collective heritage, and is our single most enduring symbol of American exceptionalism."

Bill Nye (the Science Guy), CEO, Planetary Society: "For people everywhere, Neil Armstrong was a hero, I think, not just because he did his dangerous job successfully, but because he was so matter-of-fact about his profession. It was a day at his office. We all owe him a debt. Just think how the word would be different, if he had crashed on the moon, or not managed to return from the moon, or missed the Earth on his way back. None of us would think of our place in the cosmos, our place in space differently. Neil Armstrong raised the expectations, the hopes and dreams, of every human on Earth. Thanks to him, we all believe that humans can achieve great things -- that we can learn about our place among the stars -- that we can all reach up and out -- that we can fly, and change the world. It turns out, yours was a pretty big step after all. Thank you, sir." [Full statement]

Hugh Downs, former host of ABC's "20/20" and chairman of the National Space Society's Board of Governors: "News of Neil Armstrong's passing is so shocking that there is no way it can be absorbed right away as reality. His position in history is deeper than that of any known discoverer or explorer in the history of this planet. As the first human to land on any world outside the Earth, and probably the first living creature of any sort to come from the Earth and reach the Moon, his legacy will be safe as long as intelligent life survives in this corner of the cosmos." [Full statement]

Neil deGrasse Tyson, director, Hayden Planetarium, via Twitter: "'Men Walk On Moon' — The only positive event in the last 50 years for which everyone remembers where they were when it happened. ... Farewell, my friend. And now, perhaps more than ever, I bid you godspeed. ... The first crewed spacecraft to Mars should be named the 'Armstrong.' That works on so many levels."

Win McNamee / Getty Images

A tribute to Ohio-born astronaut Neil Armstrong is displayed on stage at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Sunday. The tribute was created during the run-up to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

More about Neil Armstrong's life and legacy:

When Neil Armstrong had his heart surgery earlier this month, we collected get-well wishes and passed them along to the family via NBC's Jay Barbree. I can't promise that we'll be able to do likewise this time around, but please feel free to leave your condolences as comments below.

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.