Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an
American astronaut and aeronautical engineer, and the first person to
walk on the Moon. He was also a naval aviator, test pilot, and
university professor. When he stepped onto the lunar surface on July
21, 1969, he said: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap
A graduate of Purdue University, he studied aeronautical engineering
with his college tuition paid for by the
U.S. Navy under the Holloway
Plan. Armstrong became a midshipman in 1949, and a naval aviator the
following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman
F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. In September
1951, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire while making a low bombing run,
and forced to bail out. After the war, he completed his bachelor's
degree at Purdue, and became a test pilot at the National Advisory
Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards
Air Force Base in California. He was the project pilot on Century
Series fighters, and flew the
North American X-15
North American X-15 seven times. He was
also a participant in the U.S. Air Force's
Man in Space Soonest
Man in Space Soonest and
X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs.
Armstrong joined the
Astronaut Corps in the second group, which
was selected in 1962. He made his first spaceflight as commander of
Gemini 8 in March 1966, becoming NASA's first civilian astronaut to
fly in space. During this mission with pilot David Scott, he performed
the first docking of two spacecraft, but the mission was aborted after
Armstrong used some of his reentry control fuel to prevent a dangerous
spin caused by a stuck thruster. Armstrong's second and last
spaceflight was as commander of Apollo 11, the first manned Moon
landing. During training for the mission, he was forced to eject from
Lunar Landing Research Vehicle
Lunar Landing Research Vehicle moments before a fiery crash. In
July 1969, Armstrong and
Lunar Module pilot
Buzz Aldrin descended to
the lunar surface, and spent two and a half hours outside the
spacecraft, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the
Command/Service Module. Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.
Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong with the Congressional
Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and Armstrong and his former crewmates
Congressional Gold Medal
Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
After he resigned from
NASA in 1971, Armstrong accepted a teaching
position in the Department of
Aerospace Engineering at the University
of Cincinnati, which he held until 1979. He served on the Apollo 13
accident investigation, and on the Rogers Commission, which
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. He acted as a
spokesman for several businesses, and appeared in advertising for
Chrysler starting in January 1979.
1 Early years
2 Navy service
3 College years
4 Test pilot
5.1 Gemini program
5.1.1 Gemini 5
5.1.2 Gemini 8
5.1.3 Gemini 11
5.2 Apollo program
5.2.1 Apollo 11
18.104.22.168 Voyage to the Moon
22.214.171.124 Return to Earth
6 Life after Apollo
NASA accident investigations
6.3 Business activities
North Pole expedition
6.5 Television and film
7 Personal life
8 Illness and death
12 Further reading
13 External links
Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, near Wapakoneta, Ohio, the
son of Stephen Koenig Armstrong and Viola Louise Engel. He was of
German, Irish and Scottish ancestry, and had a younger sister,
June, and a younger brother, Dean. His father worked as an auditor for
the Ohio state government, and the family moved around the state
repeatedly, living in 20 towns. Armstrong's love for flying grew
during this time, having started early when his father took his
two-year-old son to the Cleveland Air Races. When he was five, he
experienced his first airplane flight in Warren, Ohio, on July 20,
1936, when he and his father took a ride in a Ford Trimotor, also
known as the "Tin Goose".
His father's last move was in 1944, back to Wapakoneta. Armstrong
attended Blume High School, and took flying lessons at the grassy
Wapakoneta airfield. He earned a student flight certificate on his
sixteenth birthday, then soloed in August, all before he had a
driver's license. He was active in the Boy Scouts and earned the
rank of Eagle Scout. As an adult, he was recognized by the Boy Scouts
of America with its
Distinguished Eagle Scout Award
Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo
Award. On July 18, 1969, while flying toward the
Moon inside the
Columbia, Armstrong greeted the Scouts: "I'd like to say hello to all
my fellow Scouts and Scouters at
Farragut State Park
Farragut State Park in
Idaho having a
National Jamboree there this week; and
Apollo 11 would like to send
them best wishes". Houston replied: "Thank you, Apollo 11. I'm sure
that, if they didn't hear that, they'll get the word through the news.
Certainly appreciate that." Among the very few personal items that
Neil Armstrong carried with him to the
Moon and back was a World Scout
In 1947, at age 17, Armstrong began studying aeronautical engineering
at Purdue University. He was the second person in his family to attend
college. He was also accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (MIT). An uncle who had attended MIT dissuaded him from
attending, telling him that it was not necessary to go all the way to
Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a good education. His college tuition
was paid for under the Holloway Plan. Successful applicants committed
to two years of study, followed by two years of flight training and
one year of service in the
U.S. Navy as an aviator, then completion of
the final two years of their bachelor's degree. He did not take
courses in naval science, nor did he join the Naval Reserve Officers
Training Corps at Purdue.
Neil Armstrong on 23 May 1952
Armstrong's call-up from the Navy arrived on January 26, 1949,
requiring him to report to
Naval Air Station Pensacola
Naval Air Station Pensacola in
flight training with class 5-49. After passing the medical
examinations, he became a midshipman on February 24, 1949. Flight
training was conducted in a North American SNJ trainer, in which he
soloed on September 9, 1949. On March 2, 1950, he made his first
aircraft carrier landing on the USS Cabot, an event he considered
comparable to his first solo flight. He was then sent to Naval Air
Station Corpus Christi in Texas for training on the Grumman F8F
Bearcat, culminating in a carrier landing on the USS Wright. On
August 16, 1950, Armstrong was informed by letter that he was a fully
qualified naval aviator. His mother and sister attended his graduation
ceremony on August 23, 1950.
Armstrong's assignment was to Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron 7
(FASRON 7) at NAS San Diego (now known as NAS North Island). On
November 27, 1950, he was assigned to VF-51, an all-jet squadron,
becoming its youngest officer, and made his first flight in a jet, a
Grumman F9F Panther, on January 5, 1951. He was promoted to ensign on
June 5, 1951, and made his first jet carrier landing on USS Essex
two days later. On June 28, 1951, Essex had set sail with VF-51
aboard, bound for Korea, where its
VF-51 would act as ground-attack
VF-51 flew ahead to
Naval Air Station Barbers Point
Naval Air Station Barbers Point in
Hawaii, where it conducted fighter-bomber training before rejoining
the ship at the end of July.
On August 29, 1951, Armstrong saw action in the
Korean War as an
escort for a photo reconnaissance plane over Songjin. Five days
later, on September 3, he flew armed reconnaissance over the primary
transportation and storage facilities south of the village of
Majon-ni, west of Wonsan. While making a low bombing run at about
350 mph (560 km/h), Armstrong's F9F Panther was hit by
anti-aircraft fire. While trying to regain control, he collided with a
pole at a height of about 20 feet (6 m), which sliced off about 3
feet (1 m) of the Panther's right wing.
F9F-2 Panthers over Korea, with Armstrong piloting S-116 (left)
Armstrong flew the plane back to friendly territory, but due to the
loss of the aileron, ejection was his only safe option. Planning to
eject over water and await rescue by Navy helicopters, he flew to an
airfield near Pohang, but his parachute was blown back over land. A
jeep driven by a roommate from flight school picked Armstrong up; it
is unknown what happened to the wreckage of his aircraft, F9F-2 BuNo
In all, Armstrong flew 78 missions over Korea for a total of 121 hours
in the air, a third of which were in January 1952, with the final
mission being flown on March 5, 1952. Of 492
U.S. Navy personnel
killed in the Korean War, 27 of them were from the Essex on this one
war cruise. Armstrong received the
Air Medal for 20 combat missions,
two gold stars for the next 40, the
Korean Service Medal
Korean Service Medal and
Engagement Star, the
National Defense Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal and the United
Nations Korea Medal. His regular commission was terminated on February
25, 1952, and he became an ensign in the
United States Navy
United States Navy Reserve.
On completion of his combat tour with Essex, he was assigned to a
transport squadron, VR-32, in May 1952. He was released from active
duty on August 23, 1952, but remained in the reserves, and was
promoted to lieutenant (junior grade) on May 9, 1953. As a
reservist, he continued to fly, with VF-724 at Naval Air Station
Glenview in Illinois, and then, after moving to California, with
VF-773 at Naval Air Station Los Alamitos. He remained in the
reserve for eight years, before resigning his commission on October
After his service with the Navy, Armstrong returned to Purdue, where
his best grades came in the four semesters following his return from
Korea. He had previously earned average marks, but his final GPA was
4.8 out of 6.0. He pledged the
Phi Delta Theta
Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and lived
in its fraternity house. He wrote and co-directed two musicals as part
of the all-student revue. The first was a version of Snow White and
the Seven Dwarves, with songs from the Walt Disney film, including
Someday My Prince Will Come; the second was titled The Land of
Egelloc, with music from
Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan with new lyrics. He was
chairman of the Purdue Aero Flying Club, and flew the club's aircraft,
an Aeronca and a couple of Pipers, which were kept at nearby Aretz
Airport in Lafayette, Indiana. Flying the Aeronca to Wapakoneta in
1954, he damaged it in a rough landing in a farmer's field, and it had
to be hauled back to Lafayette on a trailer. At Purdue, he was
also a member of
Kappa Kappa Psi
Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band
Fraternity, and a baritone player in the Purdue All-American
Marching Band. Armstrong graduated in January 1955 with a Bachelor
of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering. In 1970 he
Master of Science
Master of Science degree in
Aerospace Engineering at the
University of Southern California
University of Southern California (USC). He would eventually be
awarded honorary doctorates by several universities.
After returning to Purdue, he met Janet Elizabeth Shearon, who was
majoring in home economics, at a party hosted by her sorority, Alpha
Chi Omega. According to the couple, there was no real courtship,
and neither could remember the exact circumstances of their
engagement. They were married on January 28, 1956, at the
Congregational Church in Wilmette, Illinois. When he moved to Edwards
Air Force Base, he lived in the bachelor quarters of the base, while
Janet lived in the Westwood district of Los Angeles. After one
semester, they moved into a house in Antelope Valley. Janet never
finished her degree, a fact she regretted later in life. The couple
had three children together: Eric, Karen, and Mark. In June 1961,
daughter Karen was diagnosed with a malignant tumor of the middle part
of her brain stem; X-ray treatment slowed its growth, but her health
deteriorated to the point where she could no longer walk or talk.
Two-year-old Karen died of pneumonia, related to her weakened health,
on January 28, 1962.
Following his graduation from Purdue, Armstrong decided to become an
experimental research test pilot. He applied at the National Advisory
Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards
Air Force Base. Although NACA had no open positions, it forwarded
his application to the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in
Cleveland, where Armstrong made his first test flight on March 1,
1955. Armstrong's stint at Cleveland lasted only a couple of
months, and on July 11, 1955, he reported for work at the High-Speed
Armstrong, 26, as a test pilot at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station
at Edwards AFB, California
On his first day, Armstrong was tasked with piloting chase planes
during releases of experimental aircraft from modified bombers. He
also flew the modified bombers, and on one of these missions had his
first flight incident at Edwards. On March 22, 1956, he was in a
Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which was to air-drop a Douglas D-558-2
Skyrocket. He sat in the right-hand pilot seat while the left-hand
seat commander, Stan Butchart, flew the B-29.
As they ascended to 30,000 feet (9 km), the number-four engine
stopped and the propeller began windmilling (rotating freely) in the
airstream. Hitting the switch that would stop the propeller's
spinning, Butchart found it slowed but then started spinning again,
this time even faster than the others; if it spun too fast, it would
break apart. Their aircraft needed to hold an airspeed of 210 mph
(338 km/h) to launch its Skyrocket payload, and the B-29 could
not land with the Skyrocket attached to its belly. Armstrong and
Butchart brought the aircraft into a nose-down attitude to increase
speed, then launched the Skyrocket. At the instant of launch, the
number-four engine propeller disintegrated. Pieces of it damaged the
number-three engine and hit the number-two engine. Butchart and
Armstrong were forced to shut down the damaged number-three engine,
along with the number-one engine, due to the torque it created. They
made a slow, circling descent from 30,000 ft (9 km) using
only the number-two engine, and landed safely.
As a research pilot, Armstrong served as project pilot on Century
Series fighters, including the
North American F-100 Super Sabre
North American F-100 Super Sabre A and
C variants, the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo, the Lockheed F-104
Republic F-105 Thunderchief
Republic F-105 Thunderchief and the Convair F-106
Delta Dart. He also flew the Douglas DC-3, Lockheed T-33 Shooting
Star, North American F-86 Sabre, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II,
Douglas F5D-1 Skylancer, Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Boeing B-47
Stratojet and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, and was one of eight elite
pilots involved in the Parasev paraglider research vehicle
program. Over his career, he flew more than 200 different models
of aircraft. His first flight in a rocket-powered aircraft was on
August 15, 1957, in the Bell X-1B, to an altitude of 11.4 miles
(18.3 km). He broke the poorly designed nose landing gear on
landing, which had happened on about a dozen previous flights of the
Bell X-1B. He flew the
North American X-15
North American X-15 seven times. His
penultimate flight reached an altitude of 207,500 feet
(63.2 km). More importantly for the program, he flew the
first flight with the Q-ball system, first flight of the number 3 X-15
airframe, and first flight of the MH-96 adaptive flight control
system. He became an employee of the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) when it was formally established on
October 1, 1958, absorbing NACA.
Armstrong was involved in several incidents that went down in Edwards
folklore or were chronicled in the memoirs of colleagues. The first
occurred during his sixth X-15 flight on April 20, 1962, while
Armstrong tested a self-adjusting control system. He flew to a height
of over 207,000 feet (63 km) (the highest he flew before Gemini
8), but the aircraft nose was held up too long during its descent to
demonstrate MH-96 g-limiting performance, and the X-15 ballooned back
up to around 140,000 feet (43 km), an effect sometimes
erroneously described as "bouncing off the atmosphere". At that
altitude, the air is so thin that aerodynamic surfaces have almost no
effect. He flew past the landing field at Mach 3 (2,000 mph,
3,200 km/h) at over 100,000 feet (30 km) in altitude, and
ended up 40 miles (64 km) south of Edwards. After sufficient
descent, he turned back toward the landing area, and barely managed to
land without striking Joshua trees at the south end. It was the
longest X-15 flight in both time and distance from the ground
Four days later, Armstrong was involved in a second incident, when he
flew for the only time with Chuck Yeager. Their job, flying a T-33,
was to evaluate Smith Ranch Dry Lake in
Nevada for use as an emergency
landing site for the X-15. In his autobiography, Yeager wrote that he
knew the lake bed was unsuitable for landings after recent rains, but
Armstrong insisted on flying out anyway. As they attempted a
touch-and-go, the wheels became stuck and they had to wait for rescue.
In Armstrong's version of the events, Yeager never tried to talk him
out of it and they made a first successful landing on the east side of
the lake. Then Yeager told him to try again, this time a bit slower.
On the second landing, they became stuck, provoking Yeager to fits of
Armstrong and X-15 #1 after a research flight in 1960
Many of the test pilots at Edwards praised Armstrong's engineering
ability. Milt Thompson said he was "the most technically capable of
the early X-15 pilots". Bill Dana said Armstrong "had a mind that
absorbed things like a sponge". Those who flew for the Air Force
tended to have a different opinion, especially people like Yeager and
Pete Knight, who did not have engineering degrees. Knight said that
pilot-engineers flew in a way that was "more mechanical than it is
flying", and gave this as the reason why some pilot-engineers got into
trouble: their flying skills did not come naturally.
A few weeks later on May 21, 1962, Armstrong was involved in what
Edwards' folklore called the "Nellis Affair". He was sent in an F-104
Delamar Dry Lake
Delamar Dry Lake in southern Nevada, again for emergency
landings. He misjudged his altitude, and also did not realize that the
landing gear had not fully extended. As he touched down, the landing
gear began to retract; Armstrong applied full power to abort the
landing, but the ventral fin and landing gear door struck the ground,
damaging the radio and releasing hydraulic fluid. Without radio
communication, Armstrong flew south to Nellis Air Force Base, past the
control tower, and waggled his wings, the signal for a no-radio
approach. The loss of hydraulic fluid caused the tailhook to release,
and upon landing, he caught the arresting wire attached to an anchor
chain, and dragged the chain along the runway.
It took thirty minutes to clear the runway and rig another arresting
cable. Armstrong telephoned Edwards and asked for someone to collect
him. Milt Thompson was sent in an F-104B, the only two-seater
available, but a plane Thompson had never flown. With great
difficulty, Thompson made it to Nellis, but a strong crosswind caused
a hard landing and the left main tire suffered a blowout. The runway
was again closed to clear it, and Bill Dana was sent to Nellis in a
T-33, but he almost landed long. The Nellis base operations office
then decided that to avoid any further problems, it would be best to
find the three
NASA pilots ground transport back to Edwards.
Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15 between November 30, 1960,
and July 26, 1962. He reached a peak altitude of 207,500 feet
(63.2 km) in the X-15-3, and a top speed of Mach 5.74
(3,989 mph, 6,420 km/h) in the X-15-1, and left the Flight
Research Center with a total of 2,400 flying hours.
Armstrong in an early Gemini spacesuit
In June 1958, Armstrong was selected for the U.S. Air Force's Man In
Space Soonest program, but the Advanced Research Projects Agency
(ARPA) cancelled its funding on August 1, 1958, and on November 5,
1958, it was superseded by Project Mercury, a civilian project run by
NASA. Ironically, as a
NASA civilian test pilot, Armstrong was
ineligible to become one of its astronauts at this time, as selection
was restricted to military test pilots. In November 1960, he
was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the X-20
Dyna-Soar, a military space plane under development by Boeing for the
U.S. Air Force, and on March 15, 1962, he was selected by the U.S. Air
Force as one of seven pilot-engineers who would fly the X-20 when it
got off the design board.
However, in April 1958,
NASA announced that applications were being
sought for the second group of
NASA astronauts for Project Gemini, a
proposed two-man spacecraft. This time, selection was open to
qualified civilian test pilots. Armstrong visited the Seattle
World's Fair in May 1962, and attended a conference there co-sponsored
NASA on space exploration. After he returned from
Seattle on June
4, he applied to become an astronaut. His application arrived about a
week past the June 1, 1962, deadline, but Dick Day, a flight simulator
expert with whom Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards, saw the late
arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone
Brooks Air Force Base
Brooks Air Force Base at the end of June, Armstrong
underwent a medical exam that many of the applicants described as
painful and at times seemingly pointless.
NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations, Deke Slayton, called
Armstrong on September 13, 1962, and asked whether he would be
interested in joining the
Astronaut Corps as part of what the
press dubbed "the New Nine"; without hesitation, Armstrong said yes.
The selections were kept secret until three days later, although
newspaper reports had been circulating since earlier that year that he
would be selected as the "first civilian astronaut". Armstrong was
one of two civilian pilots selected for this group; the other was
Elliot See, another former naval aviator.
NASA publicly announced
the selection of the second group at a press conference on September
17, 1962. Compared with the
Mercury Seven astronauts, they were
younger, and had more impressive academic credentials.
On February 8, 1965, Armstrong and See were announced as the backup
crew for Gemini 5, with Armstrong as its commander, supporting the
prime crew of
Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad. The purpose of the
mission was to practice space rendezvous and to develop procedures and
equipment for a long-duration flight of seven days. These would be
required for a mission to the Moon. With two other flights (Gemini 3
and Gemini 4) in preparation, there were six crews competing for
simulator time, resulting in
Gemini 5 being postponed. The mission
lifted off on August 21. Armstrong and See watched the launch at
Cape Kennedy, and then flew to the Manned
Spacecraft Center in
Houston. The mission was generally successful, despite a problem
with the fuel cells that prohibited a rendezvous. They practiced a
"phantom rendezvous", carrying out the maneuver without a target.
Main article: Gemini 8
Armstrong, 35, suiting up for
Gemini 8 in March 1966
The crew assignments for
Gemini 8 were announced on September 20,
1965. Under the normal rotation system, the backup crew for one
mission would become the prime crew for the third mission after, but
David Scott as the pilot of Gemini 8. Scott
was the first member of the third group of astronauts, whose selection
was announced on October 18, 1963, to receive a prime crew
assignment. See was designated to command Gemini 9. Henceforth,
each Gemini mission would be commanded by a member of Armstrong's
group, with a member of Scott's group as the pilot. Conrad would be
Armstrong's backup this time, with
Richard F. Gordon Jr.
Richard F. Gordon Jr. as his
pilot. Armstrong became the first American civilian in space;
the first civilian (and first woman) was
Valentina Tereshkova of the
Soviet Union, nearly three years earlier. A textile worker and amateur
parachutist, she was aboard
Vostok 6 when it launched on June 16,
1963. Armstrong would also be the last of his group to fly in
space, as See died in a T-38 crash on February 28, 1966, that also
took the life of crewmate Charles Bassett. They were replaced by the
backup crew of Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan, while
Jim Lovell and Buzz
Aldrin moved up from the backup crew of
Gemini 10 to become the backup
for Gemini 9, and would eventually fly Gemini 12.
The mission launched on March 16, 1966. It was to be the most complex
yet, with a rendezvous and docking with an unmanned Agena target
vehicle, and the second American extravehicular activity (EVA) by
Scott. In total, the mission was planned to last 75 hours and 55
orbits. After the Agena lifted off at 10:00:00 EST, the Titan II
rocket carrying Armstrong and Scott ignited at 11:41:02 EST, putting
them into an orbit from which they would chase the Agena. The
rendezvous and first-ever docking between two spacecraft was
successfully completed after 6.5 hours in orbit. Contact with the
crew was intermittent due to the lack of tracking stations covering
their entire orbits. Out of contact with the ground, the docked
spacecraft began to roll, and Armstrong attempted to correct this with
the Orbital Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS) of the Gemini
spacecraft. Following the earlier advice of Mission Control, they
undocked, but found that the roll increased dramatically to the point
where they were turning about once per second, indicating a problem
with Gemini's attitude control. Armstrong decided the only course of
action was to engage the Reentry Control System (RCS) and turn off the
OAMS. Mission rules dictated that once this system was turned on, the
spacecraft had to re-enter at the next possible opportunity. It was
later thought that damaged wiring made one of the thrusters become
stuck in the on position.
Gemini 8 from the western Pacific Ocean; Armstrong sitting
to the right
There were a few people in the
Astronaut Office, most notably Walter
Cunningham, who felt that Armstrong and Scott "had botched their first
mission". There was speculation that Armstrong could have salvaged
the mission if he had turned on only one of the two RCS rings, saving
the other for mission objectives. These criticisms were unfounded; no
malfunction procedures had been written, and it was only possible to
turn on both RCS rings, not just one or the other. Gene Kranz
wrote, "the crew reacted as they were trained, and they reacted wrong
because we trained them wrong." The mission planners and controllers
had failed to realize that when two spacecraft are docked together,
they must be considered to be one spacecraft. Kranz considered this
the most important lesson. Armstrong himself was depressed that
the mission had been cut short, canceling most mission objectives
and robbing Scott of his EVA. The Agena would be re-used as a docking
target by Gemini 10. Armstrong and Scott received the NASA
Exceptional Service Medal, and the Air Force awarded Scott the
Distinguished Flying Cross as well. Scott was promoted to
lieutenant colonel, and Armstrong received a $678 raise in pay to
$21,653 a year (equivalent to $163,319 in 2017), making him NASA's
highest paid astronaut.
Main article: Gemini 11
The final assignment for Armstrong in the Gemini program was as the
back-up Command Pilot for Gemini 11, announced two days after the
landing of Gemini 8. Having trained for two flights, Armstrong was
quite knowledgeable about the systems and was more in a teaching role
for the rookie backup Pilot, William Anders. The launch was on
September 12, 1966, with Conrad and Gordon on board, who
successfully completed the mission objectives, while Armstrong served
Capsule communicator (CAPCOM).
Following the flight, President
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson asked Armstrong and
his wife to take part in a 24-day goodwill tour of South America.
Also on the tour, which took in 11 countries and 14 major cities, were
Dick Gordon, George Low, their wives, and other government officials.
In Paraguay, Armstrong impressed dignitaries by greeting them in their
local language, Guarani; in Brazil he talked about the exploits of
the Brazilian-born Alberto Santos-Dumont, who was regarded as having
Wright brothers with the first flying machine with his
On January 27, 1967, the date of the Apollo 1 fire, Armstrong was in
Washington, D.C., with Cooper, Gordon, Lovell and
Scott Carpenter for
the signing of the United Nations Outer Space Treaty. The astronauts
chatted with the assembled dignitaries until 18:45, when Carpenter
went to the airport, and the others returned to the Georgetown Inn,
where they each found messages to phone the Manned
During these telephone calls, they learned of the deaths of Gus
Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in the fire. Armstrong and the
group spent the rest of the night drinking scotch and discussing what
Armstrong floats to the ground after ejecting from Lunar Landing
Research Vehicle 1
On April 5, 1967, the same day the Apollo 1 investigation released its
final report on the fire, Armstrong assembled with 17 other astronauts
for a meeting with Slayton. The first thing Slayton said was, "The
guys who are going to fly the first lunar missions are the guys in
this room." According to Cernan, one of the astronauts present,
Armstrong showed no reaction to the statement. To Armstrong it came as
no surprise—the room was full of veterans of Project Gemini, the
only people who could fly the lunar missions. Slayton talked about the
planned missions and named Armstrong to the backup crew for Apollo 9,
which at that stage was planned to be a medium Earth orbit test of the
Lunar Module–Command/Service Module combination.
This crew assignment was officially announced on November 20,
1967. For crewmates, he was assigned Lovell and Aldrin, the crew
of Gemini 12. After design and manufacturing delays in the Lunar
Apollo 8 and
Apollo 9 swapped prime and backup crews.
Based on the normal crew rotation scheme, Armstrong would command
Apollo 11. There would be one change. Mike Collins on the Apollo 8
crew began experiencing trouble with his legs. Doctors diagnosed the
problem as a bony growth between his fifth and sixth vertebrae,
requiring surgery. Lovell took his place on the
Apollo 8 crew,
and, when he recovered, Collins joined Armstrong's crew.
To give the astronauts experience with how the LM would fly on its
final landing descent,
Bell Aircraft to build two
Lunar Landing Research Vehicles (LLRV), later augmented with three
Lunar Landing Training Vehicles (LLTV). Nicknamed the "Flying
Bedsteads", they simulated the Moon's one-sixth of Earth's gravity by
using a turbofan engine to support the remaining five-sixths of the
craft's weight. On May 6, 1968, about 100 feet (30 m) above the
ground, Armstrong's controls started to degrade and the LLRV began
rolling. He ejected safely. Later analysis suggested that if he
had ejected half a second later, his parachute would not have opened
in time. His only injury was from biting his tongue. The LLRV was
completely destroyed. Even though he was nearly killed, Armstrong
maintained that without the LLRV and LLTV, the lunar landings would
not have been successful, as they gave commanders valuable experience
in the behavior of lunar landing craft.
Main article: Apollo 11
Apollo 11 crew portrait. Left to right are Armstrong, Michael
Collins, and Buzz Aldrin
After Armstrong served as backup commander for Apollo 8, Slayton
offered him the post of commander of
Apollo 11 on December 23, 1968,
Apollo 8 orbited the Moon. In a meeting that was not made
public until the publication of Armstrong's biography in 2005, Slayton
told him that although the planned crew was Armstrong as Commander,
Lunar Module (LM) Pilot
Buzz Aldrin and Command Module (CM) Pilot
Michael Collins, he was offering Armstrong the chance to replace
Aldrin with Jim Lovell. After thinking it over for a day, Armstrong
told Slayton he would stick with Aldrin, as he had no difficulty
working with him and thought Lovell deserved his own command.
Replacing Aldrin with Lovell would have made Lovell the Lunar Module
Pilot, unofficially the lowest ranked member, and Armstrong could not
justify placing Lovell, the commander of Gemini 12, in the number 3
position of the crew. The crew of
Apollo 11 was officially
announced on January 9, 1969, as Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin, with
Lovell, Anders and
Fred Haise as the backup crew.
According to Chris Kraft, a March 1969 meeting between Slayton, George
Low, Bob Gilruth and Kraft determined that Armstrong would be the
first person on the Moon, in part because
NASA management saw him as a
person who did not have a large ego. A press conference on April 14,
1969, gave the design of the LM cabin as the reason for Armstrong's
being first; the hatch opened inwards and to the right, making it
difficult for the
Lunar Module Pilot, on the right-hand side, to exit
first. At the time of their meeting, the four men did not know about
the hatch consideration. The first knowledge of the meeting outside
the small group came when Kraft wrote his book. Methods of
circumventing this difficulty existed, but it is not known if these
were rejected or even considered at the time. Slayton added,
"Secondly, just on a pure protocol basis, I figured the commander
ought to be the first guy out ... I changed it as soon as I found
they had the time line that showed that. Bob Gilruth approved my
Voyage to the Moon
Saturn V rocket launched
Apollo 11 from Launch Complex 39 site at
Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969, at 13:32:00
EDT local time). Armstrong's wife Janet and two sons watched from
a yacht moored on the Banana River. During the launch,
Armstrong's heart reached a top rate of 110 beats per minute. He
found the first stage to be the loudest—much noisier than the Gemini
8 Titan II launch. The Apollo CM was relatively roomy compared to the
Gemini spacecraft. None of the
Apollo 11 crew suffered from space
sickness, as some members of previous crews had. Armstrong was
especially happy, as he had been prone to motion sickness as a child
and could experience nausea after doing long periods of
Aldrin took this photo of Armstrong in the cabin after the completion
of the EVA on July 21, 1969
The objective of
Apollo 11 was to land safely rather than to touch
down with precision on a particular spot. Three minutes into the lunar
descent burn, Armstrong noted that craters were passing about two
seconds too early, which meant the LM Eagle would probably touch down
beyond the planned landing zone by several miles. As the Eagle's
landing radar acquired the surface, several computer error alarms
appeared. The first was a code 1202 alarm, and even with their
extensive training, neither Armstrong nor Aldrin was aware of what
this code meant. They promptly received word from CAPCOM Charles Duke
in Houston that the alarms were not a concern; the 1202 and 1201
alarms were caused by an executive overflow in the Lunar Module
computer. As described by
Buzz Aldrin in the documentary In the Shadow
of the Moon, the overflow condition was caused by his own
counter-checklist choice of leaving the docking radar on during the
landing process, so the computer had to process unnecessary radar data
and did not have enough time to execute all tasks, dropping
lower-priority ones. Aldrin stated that he did so with the objective
of facilitating re-docking with the CM should an abort become
necessary, not realizing that it would cause the overflow
When Armstrong noticed they were heading toward a landing area which
he believed was unsafe, he took over manual control of the LM, and
attempted to find an area which seemed safer, taking longer than
expected, and longer than most simulations had taken. For this
reason, there was concern from Mission Control that the LM was running
low on fuel. Upon landing, Aldrin and Armstrong believed they had
about 40 seconds left on their fuel, including the 20 seconds' worth
which had to be saved in the event of an abort. During training,
Armstrong had landed the LLTV with less than 15 seconds left on
several occasions, and he was also confident the LM could survive a
straight-down fall from 50 feet (15 m) if needed. Analysis after
the mission showed that at touchdown there was 45 to 50 seconds of
propellant burn time left.
The landing on the surface of the
Moon occurred several seconds after
UTC on July 20, 1969, at which time one of three 67-inch
(170 cm) probes attached to three of the Lunar Module's four legs
made contact with the surface, a panel light inside the LM lit up, and
Aldrin called out, "Contact light." Armstrong shut the engine off and
said, "Shutdown." As the LM settled onto the surface, Aldrin said,
"Okay. Engine stop", then they both called out some post-landing
checklist items. After a ten-second pause, Duke acknowledged the
landing with, "We copy you down, Eagle." Armstrong announced the
landing to Mission Control and the world with the words, "Houston,
Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Aldrin and Armstrong
celebrated with a brisk handshake and pat on the back before quickly
returning to the checklist of tasks needed to ready the Lunar Module
for liftoff from the
Moon should an emergency unfold during the first
moments on the lunar surface. After Armstrong had
confirmed touch down, Duke re-acknowledged, and expressed the flight
controllers' anxiety: "Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground.
You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again.
Thanks a lot." During the landing, Armstrong's heart rate ranged
from 100 to 150 beats per minute.
See also: Apollo 11—Lunar surface operations
Armstrong describes the lunar surface
"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind"
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Although the official
NASA flight plan called for a crew rest period
before extravehicular activity, Armstrong requested that the EVA be
moved to earlier in the evening, Houston time. Once Armstrong and
Aldrin were ready to go outside, Eagle was depressurized, the hatch
was opened and Armstrong made his way down the ladder first. At
the bottom of the ladder Armstrong said, "I'm going to step off the LM
now". He then turned and set his left boot on the lunar surface at
UTC July 21, 1969, then spoke the now-famous words, "That's
one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."
Armstrong prepared his famous epigram on his own. In a
post-flight press conference, he said that he decided on the words
"just prior to leaving the LM." In a 1983 interview in Esquire
Magazine, Armstrong explained to George Plimpton: "I always knew there
was a good chance of being able to return to Earth, but I thought the
chances of a successful touch down on the moon surface were about even
money—fifty–fifty ... Most people don't realize how difficult
the mission was. So it didn't seem to me there was much point in
thinking of something to say if we'd have to abort landing." In
2012, his brother Dean Armstrong claimed that Neil had shown him a
note with a draft of the line months before the launch. Historian
Andrew Chaikin, who had interviewed Armstrong in 1988 for his book A
Man on the Moon, disputed that he had ever claimed coming up with the
line spontaneously during the mission.
Recordings of Armstrong's transmission do not evidence the indefinite
article "a" before "man", though
NASA and Armstrong insisted for years
that static had obscured it. Armstrong stated he would never make such
a mistake, but after repeated listenings to recordings, he eventually
admitted he must have dropped the "a". He later said he "would
hope that history would grant me leeway for dropping the syllable and
understand that it was certainly intended, even if it was not
said—although it might actually have been". It has since been
claimed that acoustic analysis of the recording reveals the presence
of the missing "a"; Peter Shann Ford, an Australian computer
programmer, conducted a digital audio analysis and claims that
Armstrong did, in fact, say "a man", but the "a" was inaudible due to
the limitations of communications technology of the
time. Ford and James R. Hansen, Armstrong's authorized
biographer, presented these findings to Armstrong and NASA
representatives, who conducted their own analysis. Armstrong
found Ford's analysis "persuasive." However, the article by Ford
was published on his website rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific
journal, and linguists
David Beaver and
Mark Liberman wrote of their
skepticism of Ford's claims on the blog Language Log. Thus,
NASA's transcript continues to show the "a" in parentheses. A
2016 peer-reviewed study again concluded Armstrong had included the
article. When Armstrong made his proclamation, Voice of America
was rebroadcast live via the
BBC and many other stations worldwide.
The estimated global audience at that moment was 530 million, out
of an estimated world population of 3.631 billion people.
Armstrong on the Moon
About 20 minutes after the first step, Aldrin joined Armstrong on the
surface and became the second human to set foot on the Moon, and the
duo began their tasks of investigating how easily a person could
operate on the lunar surface. Early on, Armstrong unveiled a plaque
commemorating their flight, and also planted the flag of the United
States. The flag used on this mission had a metal rod to hold it
horizontal from its pole. Since the rod did not fully extend, and the
flag was tightly folded and packed during the journey, the flag ended
up with a slightly wavy appearance, as if there were a breeze.
Shortly after their flag planting, President
Richard Nixon spoke to
them by a telephone call from his office. The President spoke for
about a minute, after which Armstrong responded for about thirty
seconds. In the
Apollo 11 photographic record there are only five
images of Armstrong partly shown or reflected. The mission was planned
to the minute, with the majority of photographic tasks performed by
Armstrong with the single
After helping to set up the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment
Package, Armstrong went for a walk to what is now known as East
Crater, 65 yards (59 m) east of the LM, the greatest distance
traveled from the LM on the mission. Armstrong's final task was to
remind Aldrin to leave a small package of memorial items to deceased
Yuri Gagarin and Vladimir Komarov, and Apollo 1
astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee. The time spent on EVA
Apollo 11 was about two and a half hours, the shortest of any
of the six Apollo lunar landing missions; each of the subsequent
five landings were allotted gradually longer periods for EVA
activities—the crew of Apollo 17, by comparison, spent over 22 hours
exploring the lunar surface. In a 2010 interview, Armstrong
NASA limited his
Moon walk to two hours because they
were unsure how the spacesuits would handle the extremely high
temperature of the Moon.
Return to Earth
Apollo 11 crew and President Nixon during the post-mission
After they re-entered the LM, the hatch was closed and sealed. While
preparing for the liftoff from the lunar surface, Armstrong and Aldrin
discovered that, in their bulky spacesuits, they had broken the
ignition switch for the ascent engine; using part of a pen, they
pushed the circuit breaker in to activate the launch sequence.
The Eagle then continued to its rendezvous in lunar orbit, where it
docked with Columbia, the Command and Service Module. The three
astronauts returned to Earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean,
to be picked up by the USS Hornet.
After being released from an 18-day quarantine to ensure that they had
not picked up any infections or diseases from the Moon, the crew were
feted across the United States and around the world as part of a
45-day "Giant Leap" tour. Armstrong then took part in Bob Hope's 1969
USO show, primarily to Vietnam. In May 1970, Armstrong traveled
Soviet Union to present a talk at the 13th annual conference of
the International Committee on Space Research; after arriving in
Leningrad from Poland, he traveled to Moscow where he met Premier
Alexei Kosygin. He was the first westerner to see the supersonic
Tupolev Tu-144 and was given a tour of the
Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut
Training Center, which Armstrong described as "a bit Victorian in
nature". At the end of the day, he was surprised to view delayed
video of the launch of Soyuz 9—it had not occurred to Armstrong that
the mission was taking place, even though Tereshkova had been his host
and her husband, Andriyan Nikolayev, was on board.
Life after Apollo
Armstrong announced shortly after the
Apollo 11 flight that he did not
plan to fly in space again. He was appointed Deputy Associate
Administrator for aeronautics for the Office of Advanced Research and
Technology at ARPA, but served in this position for only a year, and
resigned from it and
NASA in 1971. He accepted a teaching
position in the Department of
Aerospace Engineering at the University
of Cincinnati, having decided on Cincinnati over other
universities, including his alma mater, Purdue, because Cincinnati had
a small aerospace department. He hoped that the faculty members would
not be annoyed that he came straight into a professorship with only
the USC master's degree. He began this while stationed at Edwards
years before, and finally completed it after
Apollo 11 by presenting a
report on various aspects of Apollo, instead of a thesis on the
simulation of hypersonic flight. The official job title he received at
Cincinnati was University Professor of Aerospace Engineering. After
teaching for eight years, he resigned in 1979 without explaining his
reason for leaving.
NASA accident investigations
Armstrong served on two spaceflight accident investigations. The first
was in 1970, after the explosion and aborted lunar landing of Apollo
13. As part of Edgar Cortright's panel, he produced a detailed
chronology of the flight. Armstrong opposed the report's
recommendation to re-design the service module's oxygen tanks, which
were the source of the explosion. In 1986, President Ronald
Reagan appointed him to the Rogers Commission which investigated the
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster
Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of that year. As vice chairman,
Armstrong was in charge of the operational side of the
Neil Armstrong (second from right in the middle row) visits with U.S.
Air Force members during a March 2010
USO stop in Southwest Asia.
Seated next to him on the left are astronauts
Jim Lovell and Gene
After Armstrong retired from
NASA in 1971, he acted as a spokesman for
several businesses. The first company to successfully approach him was
Chrysler, for whom he appeared in advertising starting in January
1979. Armstrong thought they had a strong engineering division, plus
they were in financial difficulty. He later acted as a spokesman for
other companies, including General Time Corporation and the Bankers
Association of America. He acted as a spokesman for U.S. businesses
only. Along with spokesman duties, he also served on the board of
directors of several companies, including Marathon Oil, Learjet,
Cinergy (Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company), Taft Broadcasting,
United Airlines, Eaton Corporation, AIL Systems and Thiokol. He
joined Thiokol's board after he served on the Rogers Commission; the
Space Shuttle Challenger was destroyed due to a problem with the
Thiokol-manufactured solid rocket boosters. He retired as chairman of
the board of
EDO Corporation in 2002.
North Pole expedition
In 1985, professional expedition leader Mike Dunn organized a trip to
take men he deemed the "greatest explorers" to the North Pole. The
group included Armstrong, Edmund Hillary, Hillary's son Peter, Steve
Fossett, and Patrick Morrow, and arrived on April 6, 1985. Armstrong
said he was curious to see what the
North Pole looked like from ground
level, as he had only seen it from the Moon.
Television and film
In 2010, he voiced the character of Dr. Jack Morrow in Quantum Quest:
A Cassini Space Odyssey, a 2010 animated educational sci-fi
adventure film initiated by JPL/
NASA through a grant from Jet
Propulsion Lab. Between 1991 and 1993, he hosted First Flights
with Neil Armstrong, an aviation history documentary series on
Armstrong speaks in February 2012 on the 50th anniversary of John
Glenn's first spaceflight
Some former astronauts (such as U.S. Senators
John Glenn and Harrison
Schmitt) actively sought political careers after leaving NASA, but
although Armstrong was approached by political groups from both
parties, he declined all offers. He described his political leanings
as favoring states' rights and opposing the United States acting as
the "world's policeman".
In the late 1950s, Armstrong applied at a local Methodist church to
lead a Boy Scout troop. When asked for his religious affiliation, he
labeled himself as a deist. His mother later said that
Armstrong's religious views caused her grief and distress in later
life as she was more religious.
In 1972, Armstrong was welcomed into the town of Langholm, Scotland,
the traditional seat of Clan Armstrong; he was made the first freeman
of the burgh, and happily declared the town his home. The Justice
of the Peace read from an unrepealed 400-year-old law that required
him to hang any Armstrong found in the town.
In November 1978, Armstrong was working at his farm near Lebanon,
Ohio. As he jumped off the back of his grain truck, his wedding ring
got caught in the wheel, tearing off the tip of his left hand's ring
finger. He collected the severed digit and packed it in ice, and
surgeons reattached it at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville,
Kentucky. In February 1991, a year after his father had died, and
nine months after the death of his mother, he suffered a mild heart
attack while skiing with friends at Aspen, Colorado.
Armstrong's first wife, Janet, divorced him in 1994, after 38 years of
marriage. He had already met his second wife, Carol Held
Knight, in 1992 at a golf tournament, where they were seated
together at the breakfast table. She said little to Armstrong, but two
weeks later she received a call from him asking what she was
doing—she replied she was cutting down a cherry tree; 35 minutes
later Armstrong was at her house to help out. They were married on
June 12, 1994, in Ohio, and then had a second ceremony, at San Ysidro
Ranch, in California. He lived in Indian Hill, Ohio.
Armstrong is generally referred to as a "reluctant" American hero.
John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, recalled Armstrong's
legendary humility. "He didn't feel that he should be out huckstering
himself," Glenn told CNN. "He was a humble person, and that's the way
he remained after his lunar flight, as well as before."
Quincy Jones presents platinum copies of "Fly Me to the Moon" to John
Glenn (left) and Armstrong, September 24, 2008
After 1994, Armstrong refused all requests for autographs because he
found that his signed items were selling for large amounts of money
and that many forgeries were in circulation; any requests that were
sent to him received a form letter in reply, saying that he had
stopped signing. Although his no-autograph policy was well known,
author Andrew Smith observed people at the 2002
Reno Air Races
Reno Air Races still
trying to get signatures, with one person even claiming, "If you shove
something close enough in front of his face, he'll sign." He also
stopped sending out congratulatory letters to new Eagle Scouts,
because he believed these letters should come from people who knew the
Use of Armstrong's name, image, and famous quote caused him problems
over the years.
MTV wanted to use his quote for its now-famous
identity depicting the
Apollo 11 landing when it launched in 1981, but
he refused. Armstrong sued
Hallmark Cards in 1994 after they used
his name and a recording of the "one small step" quote in a Christmas
ornament without permission. The lawsuit was settled out of court
for an undisclosed amount of money which Armstrong donated to
In May 2005, Armstrong became involved in an unusual legal dispute
with his barber of 20 years, Mark Sizemore. After cutting
Armstrong's hair, Sizemore sold some of it to a collector for $3,000
without Armstrong's knowledge or permission. Armstrong threatened
legal action against Sizemore unless he returned the hair or donated
the proceeds to a charity of Armstrong's choosing. Sizemore, unable to
retrieve the hair, decided to donate the proceeds to the charity of
From the early 1980s, Armstrong was the subject of a hoax saying that
he converted to Islam after hearing the adhan, the Muslim call to
prayer, while walking on the Moon. The Indonesian singer Suhaemi wrote
a song called "Gema Suara Adzan di Bulan" ("The Resonant Sound of the
Call to Prayer on the Moon") which described Armstrong's conversion;
the song was discussed widely in various
Jakarta news outlets in
1983. Other similar hoax stories were seen in Egypt and Malaysia.
In March 1983, the U.S. State Department responded by issuing a global
message to Muslims saying that Armstrong "has not converted to
Islam". However, the hoax was not completely quieted; it surfaced
occasionally for the next three decades. A part of the confusion stems
from the similarity between Armstrong's American residence in Lebanon,
Ohio, and the country of Lebanon, which has a majority population of
Illness and death
Photograph of Armstrong as a boy at his family memorial service in
Indian Hill, Ohio, near Cincinnati, on August 31, 2012
Armstrong underwent bypass surgery on August 7, 2012, to relieve
blocked coronary arteries. Although he was reportedly recovering
well, he developed complications in the hospital and died on
August 25, in Cincinnati, Ohio, aged 82. After his death,
Armstrong was described, in a statement released by the White House,
as "among the greatest of American heroes—not just of his time, but
of all time". The statement further said that Armstrong had
carried the aspirations of the United States' citizens and that he had
delivered "a moment of human achievement that will never be
His family released a statement describing Armstrong as a "reluctant
American hero [who had] served his nation proudly, as a navy fighter
pilot, test pilot, and astronaut ... While we mourn the loss of a
very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it
serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to
make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the
limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves. For
those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple
request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and
the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon
smiling down at you, think of
Neil Armstrong and give him a
wink." This prompted many responses, including the Twitter
Aldrin, said that he was "deeply saddened by the passing. I know I am
joined by millions of others in mourning the passing of a true
American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. I had truly hoped that
on July 20th, 2019, Neil, Mike and I would be standing together to
commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our moon landing ...
Regrettably, this is not to be." Collins said: "He was the
best, and I will miss him terribly."
Charles Bolden said that: "As long as there are history books, Neil
Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind's
first small step on a world beyond our own".
Armstrong's burial at sea on September 14, 2012
A tribute was held in Armstrong's honor on September 13 at Washington
National Cathedral, whose Space Window depicts the
Apollo 11 mission
and holds a sliver of
Moon rock amid its stained-glass panels. In
attendance were Armstrong's
Apollo 11 crewmates, Michael Collins and
Buzz Aldrin; Gene Cernan, the
Apollo 17 mission commander and last man
to walk on the Moon; and former Senator and astronaut John Glenn, the
first American to orbit the Earth. In a eulogy, Charles Bolden said,
"Neil will always be remembered for taking humankind's first small
step on a world beyond our own, but it was the courage, grace, and
humility he displayed throughout this life that lifted him above the
stars." Cernan recalled Armstrong's low-fuel approach to the Moon:
"When the gauge says empty we all know there's a gallon or two left in
Diana Krall sang the song "Fly Me to the Moon". Collins led
prayers. Scott recalled their
Gemini 8 mission with Armstrong when he
spoke, possibly for the first time, about an incident in which glue
spilled on his harness and prevented it from locking correctly minutes
before the hatch had to be sealed or the mission aborted. Armstrong
then called on Conrad to solve the problem, which he did, to continue
the mission without stopping the countdown clock. "That happened
Neil Armstrong was a team player, he always worked on behalf
of the team." On September 14, Armstrong's cremated remains were
scattered in the
Atlantic Ocean during a burial-at-sea ceremony aboard
the USS Philippine Sea. Flags were flown at half-staff on
the day of Armstrong's funeral.
Michael Collins, President George W. Bush, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz
Aldrin during celebrations of the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11
flight, July 21, 2004
Armstrong received many honors and awards, including the Presidential
Medal of Freedom from President Nixon, the Cullum Geographical
Medal from the American Geographical Society, and the Collier
Trophy from the National Aeronautic Association, all in 1969, the
NASA Distinguished Service Medal in 1970, the Dr. Robert H.
Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1970, the
Sylvanus Thayer Award
Sylvanus Thayer Award by the
United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy in 1971, the Congressional Space
Medal of Honor from President
Jimmy Carter in 1978, and the
Congressional Gold Medal
Congressional Gold Medal in 2011. Armstrong and his Apollo 11
crewmates were the 1999 recipients of the
Langley Gold Medal
Langley Gold Medal from the
Smithsonian Institution. On April 18, 2006, he received NASA's
Ambassador of Exploration Award. The
Space Foundation named Neil
Armstrong as a recipient of its 2013 General James E. Hill Lifetime
Space Achievement Award. Armstrong was also inducted into the
Aerospace Walk of Honor, the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and the
Astronaut Hall of Fame. He was awarded his
Astronaut badge in a ceremony on board the aircraft carrier
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on March 10, 2010, in a ceremony
attended by Lovell and Cernan.
The lunar crater Armstrong, 31 miles (50 km) from the Apollo 11
landing site, and asteroid
6469 Armstrong are named in his honor.
There are more than a dozen elementary, middle and high schools named
in his honor in the United States, and many places around the
world have streets, buildings, schools, and other places named for
Armstrong and/or Apollo. The Armstrong Air and Space Museum, in
Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta, and the airport in New
Knoxville, Ohio, where he took his first flying lessons when he was
fifteen, are named after him.
Purdue University announced in
October 2004 that its new engineering building would be named Neil
Armstrong Hall of Engineering in his honor; the building cost
$53.2 million and was dedicated on October 27, 2007, during a ceremony
at which Armstrong was joined by fourteen other Purdue
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center was renamed
NASA Neil A.
Armstrong Flight Research Center
Armstrong Flight Research Center in 2014.
Barack Obama poses with
Apollo 11 astronauts, from left,
Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, and Neil Armstrong, on the 40th
anniversary of the
Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20, 2009
In September 2012, the
U.S. Navy announced that the first
Armstrong-class vessel is named RV Neil Armstrong. The ship was
christened on March 28, 2014, launched on March 29, 2014, passed sea
trials August 7, 2015, and delivered to the Navy on September 23,
2015. It is a modern oceanographic research platform capable of
supporting a wide range of oceanographic research activities conducted
by academic groups.
Armstrong's authorized biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A.
Armstrong, was published in 2005. For many years, Armstrong turned
down biography offers from authors such as
Stephen Ambrose and James
A. Michener, but agreed to work with
James R. Hansen after reading one
of Hansen's other biographies. A film adaptation of the book
Ryan Gosling and directed by
Damien Chazelle is scheduled to
be released in October 2018.
In a 2010
Space Foundation survey, Armstrong was ranked as the #1 most
popular space hero, and in 2013, Flying magazine ranked him at #1
on its list of the "51 Heroes of Aviation". The press often asked
Armstrong for his views on the future of spaceflight. In 2005,
Armstrong said that a manned mission to Mars will be easier than the
lunar challenge of the 1960s; "I suspect that even though the various
questions are difficult and many, they are not as difficult and many
as those we faced when we started the Apollo [space program] in 1961."
In 2010, he made a rare public criticism of the decision to cancel the
Ares I launch vehicle and the Constellation
Moon landing program.
In an open public letter also signed by fellow Apollo veterans Lovell
and Cernan, he noted, "For The United States, the leading space faring
nation for nearly half a century, to be without carriage to low Earth
orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth
orbit for an indeterminate time into the future, destines our nation
to become one of second or even third rate stature". Armstrong
had also publicly recalled his initial concerns about the Apollo 11
mission, when he had believed there was only a 50 percent chance of
landing on the Moon. "I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised
that we were successful", he later said. On November 18, 2010,
aged 80, Armstrong said in a speech during the Science &
Technology Summit in The Hague, Netherlands, that he would offer his
services as commander on a mission to Mars if he were asked.
^ "History of Wapakoneta (or is it Wapaghkonnetta?)". City of
Wapakoneta, Ohio. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011.
Retrieved August 25, 2012.
^ a b Hansen 2005, pp. 49–50.
^ Counihan, Patrick (August 27, 2012). "Distant Irish relatives mourn
moonwalker Neil Armstrong". IrishCentral. Retrieved March 26,
^ Chrisafis, Angelique (May 28, 2004). "Ulster Scots' Eagle fails to
take off". The Guardian. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
Neil Armstrong grants rare interview to accountants organization".
CBC News. May 24, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2012.
^ "Project Apollo:
Astronaut Biographies". NASA. Retrieved May 12,
^ Koestler-Grack 2009, p. 14.
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Appearances on C-SPAN
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Sylvanus Thayer Award
Sylvanus Thayer Award recipient
People who have walked on the Moon
Neil Armstrong (CDR, Apollo 11)
Buzz Aldrin (LMP, Apollo 11)
Pete Conrad (CDR, Apollo 12)
Alan Bean (LMP, Apollo 12)
Alan Shepard (CDR, Apollo 14)
Edgar Mitchell (LMP, Apollo 14)
David Scott (CDR, Apollo 15)
James Irwin (LMP, Apollo 15)
John Young (CDR, Apollo 16)
Charles Duke (LMP, Apollo 16)
Eugene Cernan (CDR, Apollo 17)
Harrison Schmitt (LMP, Apollo 17)
Apollo Lunar Module
Lunar Roving Vehicle
Recipients of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor
Michael P. Anderson
David M. Brown
Roger B. Chaffee
Charles "Pete" Conrad
Virgil "Gus" Grissom
William C. McCool
Michael J. Smith
Thomas P. Stafford
Italics indicate the award was bestowed posthumously
Astronaut Group 2, "The New Nine, The Next Nine, The Nifty Nine",
Astronaut Group 1 ←
Astronaut Group 2 →
Charles "Pete" Conrad
Thomas P. Stafford
List of astronauts by year of selection
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