A Brief Biography of Neil Armstrong

The First Man on the Moon

“That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

We have all heard this incredible phrase from Neil Armstrong from when he became the first man on the moon. But Armstrong’s life leading up to this moment was filled with training, simulations, and a lot of hard work.

Young Life

Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio on August 5, 1930. For the first fourteen years of his life Armstrong, with his parents and younger brother and sister, moved to sixteen different cities in Ohio due to his father’s job of being an Auditor for the Ohio State Government. Armstrong’s love for flying started just when he was two years old when he went to his first Cleveland Air Race and developed at six years old on his first airplane ride. This sparked his interest at a very young age and even got his student flight certificate when he turned sixteen and at seventeen went to Purdue University on a naval scholarship studying aeronautical engineering.   

Navy Service

Armstrong then went on to join the navy in 1949 after college and moved to Florida for flight training. In 1950, he was assigned to VF-51, becoming the youngest officer of an all-jet squadron. He then served as a pilot in the Korean War and flew seventy-eight combat missions from 1951 to 1952. Armstrong won the Air Medal for twenty of his combat missions. He then went back to Purdue University to finish college until 1955, which after he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).  He had his first test flight on March 1, 1955, and served as a project pilot on Century Series fighters, flying the North American F-100 Super Sabre A and C variants, the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, and over 200 other different models of aircraft. Then on October 1, 1958, he got his first position at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Life at NASA

Armstrong was a research pilot at NASA’s Flight Research Center and was a project pilot on many high-speed aircraft including the 4000-mph X-15. When NASA opened up the Project Gemini applications to test pilots, Armstong went to the Seattle World’s Fair, co-sponsored by NASA, and attended a conference on space exploration, which right after he then submitted his application to Gemini. On February 8, 1965, Armstrong as well as another astronaut, Elliot See, were announced as backup crew for the Gemini 5 mission and was announced the prime crew for Gemini 8 on September 20, 1965, as a command pilot and performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.

Apollo Mission

On December 23, 1968, NASA offered him the post of commander for the Apollo 11 mission along with Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin and Command Module Pilot Michael Collins. On April 14, 1969, a conference was held and came to the conclusion that Neil Armstrong should be the first person on the Moon, with then the Apollo 11 mission launched on July 16, 1969. The landing of the Moon occurred on July 20, 1969, with the first step on the Moon being taken by Armstong on July 21, 1969, at 02:56 UTC time and spoke his famous line:

“That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

Life After NASA

After Apollo 11, Armstong was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics for the Office of Advanced Research and Technology and served in that position for a year, after retiring from NASA in 1971. He got a job at the University of Cincinnati teaching Aerospace Engineering and completed his Master’s Degree as well. When he resigned that position, President Ronald Reagan asked Armstrong to join the Rogers Commission investigating the destruction of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and after appointed Armstrong to a fourteen-member commission to develop a plan for American civilian spaceflight in the 21st century.

He was the recipient of many special honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Congressional Gold Medal; the Congressional Space Medal of Honor; the Explorers Club Medal; the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy; the NASA Distinguished Service Medal; the Harmon International Aviation Trophy; the Royal Geographic Society's Gold Medal; the Federation Aeronautique Internationale's Gold Space Medal; the American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award; the Robert J. Collier Trophy; the AIAA Astronautics Award; the Octave Chanute Award; and the John J. Montgomery Award.  

Neil Armstong later died in Cincinnati on August 25, 2012, at the age of 82 due to complications of a cardiovascular procedure.

Written by: Ellie Humphreys

Ellie Humphreys is the Board Member for Voyager Space Outreach for writing Blog posts on STEM/Space Topics.

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