s 2012 comes to a close and we welcome a new year, we remember the influential people who died in the past 12 months. The list includes two of the most important astronauts in NASA history, one of the most beloved children's authors of the 20th century, the "Queen of Disco," and one of the longest serving U.S. senators in history. Here's a look back at lives that were lost this year...
This legendary astronaut was the first human being ever to set foot on the moon. He captivated the world when he said, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." (Photo: Central Press/Getty Images)
The conservative internet publisher and activist, who inspired the Right and infuriated the Left, passed away suddenly at the age of 43. (Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Helen Gurley Brown
The former editor of Cosmopolitan is widely credited for giving the long-running women's magazine its characteristically frank sexual tone. (Photo: George De Sota/Newsmakers)
The celebrated pianist and composer helped to bring the sounds of jazz into the homes of ordinary Americans across the country, with support from the members of The Dave Brubeck Quartet. He died one day short of his 92nd birthday. (Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)
The "world's oldest teenager" was best known as the host of the variety show American Bandstand from 1957-1987. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for ATI)
Known for her wacky, self-deprecating stage persona, this actress and comedic pioneer helped to pave the way for today's female comics. (Photo: Central Press/Getty Images)
The prolific writer and trailblazing filmmaker is known for classics like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. (Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
The beloved actor behind TV's honorable Sheriff Andy Taylor and cantankerous defense attorney Ben Matlock died at age 86. (Photo: Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)
This R&B phenomenon was known as the voice of her generation with inescapable hits like "I Will Always Love You." (Photo: Hanne Jordan/dpa/Corbis)
This World War II hero represented the Aloha State as a U.S. Senator since it was welcomed into the union in 1959. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
"The Matriarch of the Blues" might be best remembered for her powerful rendition of "At Last," an iconic song that's become a staple at weddings. (Photo: Vince Bucci/Getty Images)
King became a symbol of the nation's racial tensions after his 1991 beating by Los Angeles police officers was caught on camera and subsequently led to a week of deadly riots. (Photo: J. Emilio Flores/Getty Images)
Former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.), most famous for losing to President Richard Nixon in the landslide 1972 election, died at age 90. (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)
Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno also known as JoePa, succumbed to lung cancer. (Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
An inspiration to little girls all over the world, Sally Ride was the first American woman to go to outer space. (Photo: NASA)
The British-born director and producer was responsible for some of the most memorable films of the past 30 years, including 1986's smash Top Gun, as well as Days of Thunder, True Romance, and many more. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Author and illustrator of the classic children's tale Where The Wild Things Are shaped the imaginations of generations. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The longest-serving U.S. senator in Pennsylvania history and a frequent and proud thorn in the side of both political parties, Specter switched parties twice but was always true to himself. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Dubbed the "godfather of world music" by George Harrison, Shankar was a true master of the traditional Indian instrument the sitar and muse to the Beatles. (Photo: Express Newspapers/Getty Images)
The indisputable "Queen of Disco," known for hits like "Love to Love You Baby," died at age 63 following a battle with cancer. (Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The celebrated novelist, playwright, and critic wrote a dozen novels, first making waves with 1948's The City and the Pillar, about a love affair between two male athletes. (Photo: Central Press/Getty Images)
The CBS news pioneer introduced a more aggressive, investigative style of TV reporting. His colleagues and critics remember him as TV's "grand inquisitor." (Photo: Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images)
The pioneering country music singer had been ready to leave the industry in 1952 when, at age 33, she recorded what became her signature song, "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." (Photo: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Adam 'MCA' Yauch
One of the founding members of the pioneering rap group Beastie Boys, Yauch died at age 47, succumbing to a long battle with cancer. (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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