Armstrong, Neil

Neil Alden Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. He was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, in the USA on 5 August 1930. From a very early age he knew that he wanted to have a career in aviation. He became a licensed pilot in 1946 (on his 16th birthday), and in 1947 he became a naval air cadet. He is married and has two children.

After studying aeronautical engineering, Armstrong served in the Korean War where he flew 78 combat missions, and in 1955 he became a civilian research pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, later known as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He received a Degree in Aeronautical Engineering at Purdue University in 1955, and a masters degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.

Armstrong became a research test pilot for NASA in 1955, and was allocate to the prestigious X-15 programme. He flew this aircraft to the limits of space at an altitude of over 200,000 feet (63,198 metres/207,500 feet), and 4000 miles per hour. In 1962, he was chosen for NASA’s space programme as the first U.S. astronaut serving as backup pilot on the Gemini V flight, and as Command Pilot on the 1966 Gemini VIII flight, which performed the first successful docking of two spacecraft. He and David Scott docked with an unmanned Agena rocket, thereby completing the first manual space-docking manoeuvre. He then flew on the Gemini VIII and Apollo XI missions.

On 16 July 1969, Armstrong, accompanied by Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., and Michael Collins, they blasted off on the Apollo XI for the first manned lunar landing mission on the moon. On 20 July, the “Eagle” lunar landing module, with Armstrong and Aldrin aboard, separated from the command module and, guided manually by Armstrong, successfully touched down on the lunar surface in the Mare Tranquillitatis, or Sea of Tranquillity. Armstrong was the first man to walk on the Moon – “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” With these words, man’s dream of many decades was fulfilled.

During the 21 hours and 37 minutes they spent on the moon, they collected soil and rock samples (48 pounds of samples), took photographs, and deployed scientific instruments, while millions watched the event on television. The return voyage to Earth began on July, and the trio splashed down in the Pacific on July 24.

Armstrong resigned from NASA in 1971, and became professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio until 1979. In 1986 he was appointed vice chairman of the presidential commission, which investigated the explosion of the Challenger.