Prior to Apollo 11, Armstrong established himself as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California’s desert. There he flew over 200 aircraft – such as the needle-nosed X-15. He made headlines and won respect from colleagues for pushing their limits and testing each to their limits.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong successfully unberthed the lunar module Eagle from Columbia and navigated it towards Volkswagen-sized rocks in the Sea of Tranquility. His nerves were put to the test during this intense and nerve-wracking endeavor.
What Was Apollo 11 About?
After working as an aeronautical engineer at what would eventually become NASA, Neil Armstrong received an unexpected call inviting him to attend its astronaut training program. With his wife Janet (an oncology nurse) as witness, they accepted and moved to Houston before being chosen for two-seat Gemini and three-seat Apollo missions for testing space technology.
Armstrong and his crew members embarked on their voyage on 16 July 1969 aboard a Saturn V rocket. Over the first three days of flight, American audiences watched live as the astronauts completed various critical tasks in translunar orbit. Unfortunately, an issue with Agena caused it to deviate off course, but Armstrong quickly activated thrusters and wrestled the Gemini capsule back under control – much to everyone’s surprise and admiration! The American public marveled at his heroic efforts.
As Eagle launched into lunar orbit on 20 July, millions of people followed along via radio and TV broadcasts. Once in lunar orbit, Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins all transferred into Eagle while Collins remained in Columbia (his command module).
Armstrong and Aldrin conducted an exhaustive checklist upon landing to ensure Eagle was healthy enough to return home. Since they were eager to continue with the next mission, they had to skip an optional rest period that started two hours post landing and work immediately on it.
The final moments of the landing sequence proved more nerve-wracking than anticipated, as their onboard computer began sounding alarms that weren’t predicted through simulations. Armstrong took semi-manual control and maneuvered away from an area called West Crater towards another crater called Little West before landing successfully on the moon surface with only 30 seconds left for fuel usage.
Armstrong and Aldrin made history after performing a quick review of the Eagle’s systems, when at 9:56 p.m. CDT the American public heard Armstrong proclaim “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. They collected rock samples as well as using seismometers to detect Moonquakes as well as laser retroreflectors to facilitate accurate distance calculations between Earth and the Moon.
The Story of Apollo 11
Armstrong had an extensive career before his selection as an astronaut, starting as a naval aviator during the Korean War where he flew combat missions from an aircraft carrier and once nearly being shot down; later becoming a test pilot with NASA and its predecessor agencies and flying experimental aircraft such as the rocket-powered X-15 which reached speeds nearing 4,000 mph while penetrating space through atmospheric layers.
Apollo 11’s launch was an extraordinary occasion, yet many things could go wrong, and did. Armstrong and Aldrin spent up to 14 hours per day training for their mission at Cape Kennedy Landing Simulator; on weekends they would return home to Houston with their families for family visits and restorative recuperative rest periods. There was serious worry among some that such extensive preparation would erode their physical wellbeing over time.
On July 21st, Armstrong and Aldrin made history when they made the first moonwalk ever conducted by humans. Staying out for two hours and 31 minutes, they collected 21.6 kilograms from lunar surface samples while also using seismometer to monitor earthquakes within the lunar interior, seismometer for earthquake detection purposes as well as laser retroreflector for accurate distance measurements between Earth and Moon.
Back at the lunar module, there was an issue with one of its essential pieces of equipment: when Armstrong locked onto the lunar surface using his radar system, its altitude reading showed to be 2,900 feet lower than displayed by their command module’s Primary Guidance and Navigation System (PGNS). He requested assistance from Mission Control but it took until they reached orbit above it before this issue could be addressed successfully.
At 17:54 UTC on July 23rd, they took off from the lunar surface, rejoining Collins in orbit in their command module, jettisoning the lunar module, firing their service module’s engines to leave lunar orbit and start their long voyage back home; after splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24th they spent 18 days quarantining to protect against contamination from lunar microbes.
The Story of Neil Armstrong
After an intensive year of astronaut training at NASA’s Houston facility, Armstrong was chosen as commander of Apollo 11, with Buzz Aldrin as backup. It was an emotional and dramatic launch day – the entire nation watched in suspense as the Saturn V rocket lifted off from Cape Kennedy, with Armstrong’s wife Janet watching alongside their children anxiously as it made its journey toward space.
Armstrong and Aldrin successfully arrived at their designated landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity – known as Eagle Rock – where they spent two-and-a-half hours conducting experiments, taking photographs, reading an inscription plaque, displaying an American flag, collecting rock samples for return home, speaking with geologists about progress made since launch, verbally reporting back to President Nixon on progress made, as well as verbally outlining progress verbally described to geologists, speaking to Nixon directly, etc.
Armstrong’s iconic first steps onto the lunar surface remain one of humanity’s defining moments; however, his initial statement omitted “mankind”.
Prior to his moon landing, Armstrong established himself as an expert test pilot. He piloted over 200 types of aircraft – such as the jet-powered X-15 which reached speeds in excess of 4,000 mph – making his skills integral for Apollo program success.
In May 1968, Armstrong narrowly avoided disaster during a practice session aboard the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle when its attitude thrusters ran out of fuel, forcing him to quickly evacuate before it crashed into Earth’s surface.
Once back on Earth, Armstrong was unwavering in his commitment to space exploration. He even testified before Congress against cancellation of Constellation program which included another moon mission. Although normally reluctant to speak out publicly about changes to federal space programs in 2010, Armstrong made headlines again by speaking out in 2010. Unfortunately he died aged 82 on August 2, 2012.
The Story of the Apollo Mission
Armstrong made history as the first human to step foot on the moon, as well as being an engineer, test pilot, college professor and avid advocate for space exploration and providing young people access to STEM (science technology engineering math). He served as part of Apollo 11 astronaut crew before later serving as NASA administrator; long-term resident of Cincinnati Ohio as well as graduate from United States Military Academy at West Point.
Before embarking on the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong had served in both naval aviators during the Korean War and research pilot positions at NASA’s Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center), flying a variety of aircraft such as gliders to rocket-powered fighter jets. Selected for astronaut training in 1962, Armstrong participated on Gemini and Apollo missions that tested spaceships and techniques to land on the moon.
Armstrong and Aldrin began exploring the lunar surface shortly after touchdown, collecting samples for science experiments as they collected a plaque reading “We came in peace for all mankind”. Additionally, they left behind a 1.5-inch silicon disk featuring goodwill messages from 73 nations as well as photos taken on its surface before returning to Eagle and spending 21 hours and 36 minutes before taking their ascent stage and returning home.
Returning home took three and a half days; astronauts touched down off Hawaii on July 24 and were met by USS Hornet for retrieval.
As part of Apollo 11 crew, Armstrong became well known for his calm demeanor and technical proficiency. Upon returning home after landing, Armstrong gave a postflight news conference during which he credited both training and “very strong will to accomplish this monumental task”. Armstrong eventually retired from NASA as deputy associate administrator for aeronautics before going on to teach at University of Cincinnati before serving on presidential commission investigating Challenger shuttle explosion in 1986 and leading Computing Technologies for Aviation Inc in Charlottesville from 1982 – 1992 as chairman.