On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong made history when he first set foot onto the lunar surface near Sea of Tranquility and famously declared: ‘That is one small step for man but one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong hails from Wapakoneta, Ohio and graduated with an engineering degree from Purdue University. Later he worked at Edwards Air Force Base as a test pilot.
What was his job?
Engineer, test pilot and astronaut Neil Armstrong served with both the Navy and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for 17 years, becoming most famous as being the first person ever to set foot on the moon – an historic moment which set in motion a new era in human exploration. For his achievements in aerospace field he earned several prestigious awards such as Presidential Medal of Freedom and Robert J. Collier Trophy; upon retirement from NASA he taught aerospace engineering at University of Cincinnati while serving as corporate spokesperson/consultant/spokesperson/consultant positions on various boards.
Armstrong originally attended Purdue University on a Navy scholarship, but his studies were interrupted by military service in Korea and two years as a naval aviator. Following completion of his undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering, Armstrong joined NACA Lewis Research Center (now Glenn Research Center), first as an engineer, then as test pilot; during this time he flew more than 200 types of aircraft including one which required extreme skill to control in outer atmosphere environments like that required by X-15s.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin separated from Columbia into their lunar module Eagle and spent 21 hours exploring and collecting samples on the Moon while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. When finished, Armstrong, Aldrin, and their ascent stage launched back towards Earth before returning with Collins for their ascent stage journey back into their command module Columbia.
After returning to Earth, Armstrong accepted a position at the University of Cincinnati as a professor and conducted aeronautical engineering research. Additionally, he served on both the National Commission on Space and Presidential Commission on Challenger Accident. Furthermore, he served on Computing Technologies for Aviation Board and eventually served as chairman for AIL Systems Inc.
Neil A. Armstrong was an advocate for education and science throughout his life. He founded the Neil A. Armstrong Foundation to advance these fields while engaging in numerous charitable endeavors. Armstrong was honored to become a Fellow of both the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and Royal Aeronautical Society as well as being honored to become an honorary member of both American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Academy of Engineering.
How did he become an astronaut?
Armstrong was raised in Ohio as his father’s job as a tax auditor took him from town to town. From early on he was drawn to flight and subscribed to aviation magazines; building model planes soon followed as his passion grew for understanding the physics of flying machines. Soon enough he graduated high school and earned both Eagle Scout and Naval Air Cadet ranks before enrolling at Purdue University on a Navy scholarship, studying aeronautical engineering – however the Korean War interrupted this pursuit and he was sent off to Pensacola Naval Air Station to train as fighter pilot – by the time he had already earned three Air Medals!
In 1962, Armstrong joined NASA’s second group of astronauts as command pilot of Gemini 8. He made history by performing the first manual docking between an unmanned Agena rocket and their craft; and by leading his team during an emergency when oxygen tank explosion damaged their craft. Armstrong’s ability to think clearly under pressure made him an outstanding candidate for Apollo missions to the Moon.
Armstrong was chosen as commander for NASA’s Apollo 11 mission alongside crewmates Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. NASA wanted someone who would be quiet yet determined in their race against Soviet cosmonauts to become the first men on the Moon; Armstrong fit this description perfectly with his quiet yet determined demeanor.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin disembarked Eagle from its command module at Ellington Air Force Base and fired their Lunar Landing Research Vehicle’s descent engine, slowing their speed to approximately 14 kilometers per hour – this trajectory had been practiced during a training flight only months earlier at Ellington.
At 12:56 p.m. EDT, Eagle touched down on the Moon’s surface and its three astronauts began their descent, disembarking and making their way towards East Crater a short walk from their landing module. On their walk they collected numerous samples from the surface as well as extensive photography of its surrounding environments.
How did he land on the moon?
On July 16 Armstrong and fellow astronauts Michael Collins (1930-) and Buzz Aldrin (1928-) took off aboard a Saturn V rocket from Kennedy Space Center with the intention of reaching the Moon, which they eventually did on July 20 after three days of lunar orbiting. To land safely they donned suits and climbed from Columbia into Eagle – with television cameras transmitting images back to Earth that millions could watch back then.
Armstrong and Aldrin arrived on the Moon’s surface to explore, conduct scientific experiments, collect samples for return to Earth and perform their first moonwalk – beginning by quoting Robert Frost’s famous poem: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. They took photographs, planted an American flag and conducted various scientific tests during their two hours and 31 minute lunar surface work session.
Following an exhaustive check of the lunar module’s systems, Armstrong undocked it from the command module and together with Aldrin opened a hatch in its bottom section before descending a long ladder onto the surface of the Moon.
As they traveled, Armstrong and Aldrin used the Lunar Module’s cameras to document their progress while also using seismometer and laser reflector deployments to measure distance from Earth to Moon. After two hours and 21 minutes on EVA, Armstrong and Aldrin returned to LM where they docked back with Command Module at 5:35 PM; they spent another two days orbiting lunar surface before docking back onto Command Module on 19 December 1972.
At the lunar landing sequence, a series of computer alarms not seen during simulations prompted Armstrong to contact Mission Control. After some delay, Armstrong realized the LM’s computer had guided them toward West Crater, with boulder-strewn floors. By employing semi-manual control he avoided these rocks while skimming over Little West (another smaller crater later named) before touching down with only 25 seconds remaining for fuel consumption – it was truly dramatic yet historic moment! This mission proved to be huge success, and America quickly established itself as world leader in space technology development.
How did he return to earth?
Armstrong served NASA for nearly 30 years as a test pilot, piloting over 200 different aircraft types ranging from jets and gliders to helicopters. Although not eligible to apply to NASA’s Mercury program (which only allowed military test pilots), Armstrong was selected amongst a second group of astronauts for Gemini and Apollo missions.
On July 20, 1969, after several days in lunar orbit, Armstrong and Aldrin undocked their LM, known as Eagle, from the command module and descended toward the Sea of Tranquility. For their two and a half-hour moonwalk they deployed scientific equipment and cameras, displayed an American flag, collected rock samples for geologists, verbally described their surroundings to mission control back home, displayed scientific equipment such as cameras for science education purposes, displayed an American flag on display plaque, displayed an inscription plaque recognizing them for this achievement – along with verbally reporting back home their observations to mission control back on Earth.
Before returning to the LM, the astronauts took a nap and made phone calls home – including calling Deke Slayton who told Armstrong his plan: when stepping onto the moon’s surface he planned on saying, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
On their return, Armstrong and Aldrin collected all of the equipment they had left on the lunar surface, returned to the LM and docked with Columbia before jettisoning it and entering lunar orbit four hours later.
As soon as they returned home, the crew went through customs as though returning from another country due to concerns that diseases or germs might have come with them from space. According to 2015 findings by Smithsonian Institution, Armstrong kept a cloth bag full of lunar dust and parts at his home for many years after returning home from space exploration.
Armstrong never sought to be seen as either a hero or reckless risktaker; nevertheless, on July 20 1969 when he spoke his famous words on the lunar surface he felt comfortable being defined as such and was content with that label until his death on August 25, 2012. Following that event he was interred at sea off of Virginia before having his remains scattered over the Atlantic Ocean.