Neil Alden Armstrong is best known for being the first man to set foot on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969. Many historians agree: the one event of the 20th century that will be most often remembered by future generations will be the first time that man set foot on another world. However, that was merely one event in Armstrong's rather eventful life. How much do you know about this man, other than this fact?
The First Man on the Moon was born August 5, 1930. Neil grew up in Ohio, moving around quite frequently during his youth. He earned his pilots license (before his drivers license), learning to fly from a small grass strip near Wapakoneta. He excelled in school, graduating high school at the age of 16.
College and Naval Service
Armstrong went to Purdue and studied Aeronautical Engineering. He was aided financially by the Holloway Plan, which meant that he would be in the Navy for at least 3 years halfway through college, and then be allowed to return to college.
Neil left for Pensacola and was commissioned as a Midshipman in 1949. He then began flying the SNJ for basic flight training. Upon completion of basic flight training, he left for Corpus Christi to begin advanced flight training in the F8F-1 Bearcat.
Soon after being pinned as a naval aviator, Armstrong left for transient duty at Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron (FASRON) 7 in San Diego, continuing to fly in the F8F-2. Shortly thereafter, he then received permanent orders to VF-51.
Neil and his shipmates in VF-51 flew the F9F-2 Panther. The squadron was deployed aboard USS Essex (CV-9) with Carrier Air Group 5, which then made a combat cruise to Korea in 1951-52.
On September 3, 1951, only 5 days after his first combat flight into Korea, Armstrong's jet struck a low-lying cable. A large portion of the right wing was shorn off, dictating an ejection. He came down in friendly territory and was eventually transported back to the ship.
Accompanying the Essex and Air Group 5 on the deployment was James A. Michener, a writer. He would later write The Bridges at Toko-Ri, a fictionalized account partly based on some of the stories from VF-51 and other Air Group 5 aviators.
After returning from active naval service, he returned to Purdue and graduated with a Bachelors degree in 1955. He continued flying with the Reserves until 1960, at which point he was discharged due to increasing responsibilities and commitments in the civilian sector.
After graduating from college, Neil applied and was accepted to be an experimental test pilot with NACA, the predecessor to NASA, at Edwards AFB. Shortly after starting at his new position, he became married to his first wife, the former Janet Shearon.
While with NACA, Armstrong flew a wide variety of aircraft, namely: the F-51, F-100A, F-100C, F-101, F-102, F-104, F-105, F-106, B-29, B-47, T-33, F-86, F4H, F5D-1, KC-135, X-1B, X-5, R4D/DC-3, and the X-15. Neil flew with Chuck Yeager on one occasion, in a T-33. In late 1962, Armstrong became the first civilian astronaut.
Neil?s first NASA flight assignment was as backup commander for the Gemini V mission. This meant that he would be the prime commander for Gemini VIII. His pilot for the flight was Dave Scott. They launched on March 16, 1966 for a scheduled rendezvous and docking with an unmanned target vehicle.
Shortly after docking, however, there was a malfunction. The spacecraft began to oscillate rapidly due to a thruster being stuck open. Armstrong relied on the reentry control system to regain control of the spacecraft, but was forced to make an early reentry after seven orbits due to the malfunction.
While flying in a lunar landing training vehicle in May 1968, Neil once again became the bearer of bad luck. On a landing approach, the controls failed. He quickly ejected at a low altitude, and luckily walked away unscathed.
Armstrong was named the backup commander for the Apollo 8 mission, which was to make history in itself by becoming the first manned flight to the moon during Christmas 1968. It was during this flight that Neil learned he would be commanding the flight of Apollo 11. Yet it was not even known at this point that Apollo 11 was to become the first flight to land a man on the moon. In order for this to happen, each flight preceding Apollo 11 had to be performed flawlessly, with no malfunctions. Fortunately, the flights of Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 10 were all successful.
On July 16, 1969, Armstrong, along with command module pilot Michael Collins and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin, launched to the moon in the Columbia and Eagle. On July 20, Armstrong and Aldrin in Eagle, separated from Collins in Columbia to begin their approach to land on the lunar surface.
Finally, after a nearly 30 minute approach fraught with computer malfunctions and fuel shortage, Armstrong radioed Earth:
"Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."
Armstrong and Aldrin, along with Collins in Columbia, had made man?s first landing on the moon. Shortly afterwards, Neil would step out of the hatch and make history yet again, becoming the first man to set foot on the lunar surface. His first words have since become known as one of the most famous quotes of all time:
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
The two men spent about two and a half hours exploring the surface, setting up experiments, gathering samples, raising the American flag, and speaking with the President before climbing back aboard the lunar module. They then launched from the lunar surface back to the mother ship, Columbia, and returned to Earth.
Life after Space
After a quarantine period, the Apollo 11 crewmen as well as their families went on a tour of many American cities, and a world tour of twenty-three countries in forty-five days. About a year later, Neil resigned from NASA and became a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He continued to teach for approximately ten years, and resigned in 1980.
Throughout the following years, Armstrong dabbled in various corporate affairs. He was also the vice chair of the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Challenger space shuttle accident.
Janet and Neil divorced after 38 years of marriage, but a few years later Neil again married, this time to Carol Knight. They lived a life of relative solitude in rural Ohio. Neil spent his remaining years staying active, flying light aircraft and sailplanes.
Neil Armstrong passed away on August 25, 2012, just a few weeks after having heart surgery. He was 82 years old.
My sources of information for what I call Neil's "biography synopsis", was his biography by James R. Hansen, entitled First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, published in 2005, as well as various websites that contained pictures found in internet searches. Messages sent to this profile do not go to Mr. Armstrong, this is merely a dedication profile I created after reading the book. Thank you for reading this, and I hope you appreciate Mr. Armstrong a little more because of it.