The first man to touch down on the moon, Neil Armstrong, died on August 25, 2012, at 82 due to cardiovascular complications. He walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, after stepping off the lunar landing module, Eagle. His words to the world upon landing remain historical, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The renowned astronaut was born on August 5, 1930, and earned his student pilot’s license at 16. In 1947, Armstrong enrolled to study aeronautical engineering under a U.S. Navy scholarship at Purdue University. A call to serve as a navy pilot in the Korean War in 1949 interrupted his studies. In 1952, he returned from the mission and resumed his studies. Later, he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the present-day National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At NACA, Armstrong served in different capacities, both as an engineer and pilot.
On January 28, 1956, Armstrong married Janet Shearon and was blessed with a son and daughter. His son Eric was born in 1957, while his daughter Karen came in 1958. Unfortunately, Armstrong lost his wife to a brain tumor in January 1962.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong, alongside his NASA colleagues Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins, embarked on man’s first mission to the moon. Armstrong was the pilot during the mission, with Buzz Aldrin aboard and Collins at the Command module.
Armstrong was the first to step off the lunar module at 10:56 PM, when he made the historical few-worded speech, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Apollo 11 landed on earth on July 24, 1969, at the Pacific Ocean west of Hawaii. It took the astronauts about two and a half hours to collect necessary samples, conduct experiments, and take photographs.
The three and their NASA team became heroes and received medals in a massive ceremony in New York City. Armstrong received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Medal of Freedom.
- He served as deputy associate administrator in NASA for aeronautics until 1971.
- Upon leaving NASA, he served as a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati for eight years.
- From 1982 to 1992, Armstrong was the chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc.
- In 1986 he became the Vice-chairman of the Presidential Commission on the space shuttle Challenger accident, which investigated the Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986.
Even with all his achievements, Armstrong was a man of few words who didn’t enjoy the publicity and hardly gave interviews. He gave an interview in 2006 whereby he briefly talked about his visit to the moon, “It’s a brilliant surface in that sunlight. The horizon seems quite close to you because the curvature is so much more pronounced than here on earth. It’s an interesting place to be. I recommend it.” During the same year, he authorized the publication of his biography “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” by James R. Hansen.
During his later years, Armstrong lived in Indian Hill, Ohio, with his third wife, Carol.