On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the Moon. He landed the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Eagle on the lunar Sea of Tranquility, accompanied by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Armstrong’s first words after stepping on the lunar surface were, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” This event was televised live on Earth and seen by millions across the globe.
Neil A. Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930, the son of a state auditor. Neil began taking flying lessons when he was fifteen and a year later earned his pilot’s license. He graduated from Blume High School in Wapakoneta in 1947 and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1955. In 1970 he completed a Master of Science degree from the University of Southern California. He was awarded honorary doctorates from a number of universities.
From 1949 to 1952, Neil Armstrong was a naval aviator and flew 78 combat missions during the Korean War. In 1955 he joined NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), working as a research pilot at the Lewis Laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio. Later that year Armstrong transferred to the NACA High-Speed Flight Station (now the Dryden Flight Research Center) at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He was a project pilot on many pioneering high-speed aircraft, including seven flights on the X-15, exceeding 4,000 mph. He flew over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters, and gliders.
In 1962, Neil Armstrong earned astronaut status. His first spaceflight was on March 16, 1966, as the Command pilot of Gemini VIII (David Scott was Pilot for the mission). Armstrong performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space during the ten-hour flight. On July 16, 1969, Neil Armstrong commanded Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission as it blasted off from Kennedy Space Center. Four days later, on July 20, he gained the distinction of being the first to land a craft on the Moon and the first man to step on its surface. Lunar Module pilot “Buzz” Aldrin, accompanied him to the lunar surface aboard the Lunar Module Eagle while Command Module pilot Michael Collins orbited the Moon in the Command Module Columbia.
Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Moon for two and a half hours and collected over 47 pounds of lunar material before returning to the lunar module. The Eagle lifted off from the lunar surface after 21 hours and 38 minutes to rendezvous with Collins. All three Apollo 11 astronauts returned safely to Earth with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 195 hours after lifting off from Cape Kennedy. With this, his last space flight, Neil Armstrong logged a total 8.58 days in outer space.
From 1970 to 1971 Armstrong was Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics at the NASA Headquarters Office of Advanced Research and Technology. In this position, he was responsible for the coordination and management of overall NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics. He resigned from NASA in 1971, and was a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, until 1979.
Neil Armstrong was a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the Royal Aeronautical Society; Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the International Astronautics Federation. He served as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps (1971-1973) and was a member of the National Commission on Space (1985-1986). From 1982 to 1992, Armstrong was also chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1986 he was Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident.
Armstrong received many honors and accolades, including the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1970, and the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1969. In 1978, Neil Armstrong was one of the six original recipients of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. Neil A. Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, died of complications from coronary artery bypass surgery on August 25, 2012, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Asteroid 6469 Armstrong and a lunar crater are named in his honor.