Neil Armstrong, a traditional Navy man to the end, will be buried at sea.
His colleagues from the Gemini and Apollo space programs had speculated about where Armstrong might go to rest.
Some thought near his hometown in Wapakoneta, Ohio, others thought perhaps closer to his home in the Cincinnati suburb of Indian Hill, where he spent the last decades of his life.
Instead, the first man to set foot on the moon wanted a traditional burial from the side of a ship.
“Well, he’s a Navy man,” said fellow astronaut and longtime friend Jim Lovell.
Armstrong’s Navy career began in 1947, when he enlisted in the Naval ROTC and went to college.
From that moment forward, many of the most significant events of his life involved the water.
By 1950, at the age of 20, he was stationed on the USS Essex, about 100 miles off of Wonsan Bay in the Sea of Japan.
He flew 78 combat missions, and after each of them he would fly back over the water toward the safety of the Essex.
In March 1966, after a successful but harrowing trip aboard Gemini 8, Armstrong went through re-entry before three parachutes opened and he dropped into the Pacific Ocean.
In July 1969, after Armstrong landed on the moon, after he said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he stepped onto the surface of the moon, he flew back again to water.
Armstrong and his crew splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and were picked up by the USS Hornet.
Returning to the water meant his mission was complete.
“It’s how he knew he was finished,” Lovell said.
“It’s how he knew his work was done.”
Details of the burial have not been released, and may not be.
The U.S. Navy confirmed it would perform the ceremony but cited the Armstrong family’s wishes for privacy in deciding to not say where, when or from which ship the burial would take place.
It is not known if this will be a full-body burial or a dropping of ashes.
In a burial involving casketed remains, according to naval regulations, taps will be played, there will be a prayer, a firing of arms, a salute and then the board holding the casket will be tilted forward, allowing the casket to slide into the sea.
The ceremony for cremated ashes is similar.
Armstrong had told his family this was how he wanted to be buried.
“It was his wish,” said family spokesman Rick Miller.
Burials at sea are a naval tradition mentioned in Homer’s “Odyssey” and in “Moby Dick.”
During times of war, American and British sailors who died at sea were sometimes wrapped in a sail weighted with cannonballs or chains and dropped into the water.
The practice was last in common usage during World War II, when many men died at sea and ships sometimes would be away from port for weeks or months at a time.
Today, the Navy still offers sea burials from deployed naval vessels for eligible personnel.
Because the ships are deployed, family members are not present, although exceptions can be made.
People eligible for a burial at sea include active-duty military; retirees and veterans who were honorably discharged; U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command and dependent family members of active-duty personnel, retirees and veterans of the uniformed services.
The Navy performs, on average, approximately 900 burials at sea each year.
“It’s not as rare as you might think,” said Navy spokesman Ed Ziegler.
A public memorial service for Armstrong will be held on Thursday at Washington National Cathedral. The service will be conducted by the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde. Political leaders and NASA astronauts, both active and retired, are expected to attend.