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First Man To Walk On The Moon – Neil Alden Armstrong

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

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When discussing Americans who have contributed to world history, the name Neil Armstrong will be top of your list.

Neil Alden Armstrong, what exactly do we know about him? Well, it is time to find out. This article is going to shed light on the facts, Biography of this great legend of America, who was the first man to walk on the moon.

Neil Alden Armstrong
Neil Alden Armstrong (Image Source)

Quick Facts about Neil Armstrong

    • Full Name: Neil Alden Armstrong
    • Also Known As: Neil Armstrong or First Man to walk on the Moon
    • Born On: 5 August 1930
    • Place Of Birth: Wapakoneta, Ohio, United States
    • Died On: 25 August 2012
    • Parents: Stephen Koenig Armstrong and Viola Louise Engel
    • Education:
      • Gates Elementary School
      • Blume High School
      • Purdue University
    • Profession: Aeronautic Engineer, Astronaut
    • Religion: Christian later converted to Islam
    • Spouses:
      • Janet Elizabeth Shearon – First Wife
      • Carol Held Knight – Second Wife
    • Children:
      • Eric
      • Karen
      • Mark
    • Awards:
      • Eagle Scout Award
      • Silver Buffalo Award
      • Presidential Medal of Freedom

Neil Alden Armstrong - Early Life and Childhood
Neil Armstrong – Early Life and Childhood

Early Life and Childhood

Neil Alden Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. He grew up as the eldest of three children in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

At the early age of 6, Neil Armstrong flew on an airplane for the first time, and it was at this point that his passion for aviation was ignited.

His mother was Viola Louise Engel and his father, Stephen Koenig Armstrong served as state auditor.

From an early age, Neil Armstrong always had the spirit of an achiever. During his school days, he was an active member of Boy scouts of America, where he managed to earn himself the rank of Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable.

Neil Armstrong began taking flying lessons at the age of 14, and on his 16th birthday, he received what to him was the best birthday present. At only 16 years of age, he was issued a pilot’s license.

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Lesser-Known Facts

    • Neil Armstrong and his crew trained for microgravity by walking sideways as they trained on how to walk in the moon’s lower gravity.
    • Neil Armstrong and Aldrin took part in the first Christian sacrament ever performed on the moon.
    • Neil Armstrong had to work odd jobs to be able to pay for flying lessons.
    • Neil Armstrong almost lost his life training for the moon-landing mission.

Why Astronomy?

Neil Armstrong is a perfect example of someone so sure of what they wanted to do in life. Even at his young age, he built a small wind tunnel to study the effects of airflow in the basement of his home. He did not rest at just that. He carried out several experiments using the model planes that he had made.

Neil Armstrong can be described as unique. Many may think that he had his life figured outright from a young age. His interest in outer space was fuelled by his neighbour, who owned a telescope. Neil Armstrong was thrilled by the views of the moon, stars, and planets that could be seen through the telescope.

Education

Anyone who knew Neil Armstrong from a young age would quickly tell what his career life would look like. As many of you may wonder, what was his schooling like? Which are these institutions that shaped and propelled the career of the first man to walk on the moon? Well it is time you found out.

Neil Alden Armstrong started his elementary school at Gates Elementary school in his home Wakapento, Ohio. His father moved a lot from one state to another. However, his last move was in 1944 back to Wapakoneta, probably so that his firstborn son could start his schooling.

He attended Blume High School. Aviation was a passion while in Blume High school. Neil Armstrong would take flying classes at the Wapakoneta airfield. His zeal and determination paid off since he was able to earn himself a student flight certificate at only 16 years of age.

He received his flying license even before he could have his driving license. Amazing right?

Neil Armstrong also got involved in various co-curriculum activities in school. Scouting was part of his school life. He was an active member of the boy scouts. He always made an exemplary performance in everything he did.

As an adult, he received the Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America.

Even on his journey to the moon, the World Scout Badge was one of the few items that Neil Armstrong could not afford to leave behind.

First Man On The Moon

Time for College

The year 1947, Neil Armstrong was 17, and it was at this age that he began his studies in aeronautical engineering at Purdue University. This happened after turning down the acceptance to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Making a choice sometimes can be very hard for most people. However, for Neil Armstrong, the results of a football match made his choice. He watched a football game between Purdue Boilermakers and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Ohio Stadium in 1945.

After the highly regarded Buckeyes were defeated in the match, he decided to go to Purdue University. His college education was paid under the Holloway Plan – A plan in which successful applicants were to study for two years, followed by two years of flight training and finally one year of service to the US Navy as an aviator.

After the Navy’s active service, Neil Armstrong went back to the university to complete his bachelor’s degree for two years.

How was his college life like?

College is a place of discovery. Besides studies, college students take time to explore new things and even interact with new people.

Neil Armstrong was no exception. He lived in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house after pledging his loyalty. He also discovered that he had a music talent.

Neil Armstrong wrote and co-directed two musicals as part of the all-student revue. His first work was a version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which he co-directed with his girlfriend, Joanne Alford from the Alpha Chi Omega. The two also directed songs from the Walt Disney film including ‘My Prince Will Come’ and the second one, which was titled ‘The Land of Egelloc’ with music from Gilbert and Sullivan but now with new lyrics.

Purdue All American Marching Band had Neil Armstrong as their baritone player. He was made an honorary member of the Kappa Kappa Psi national band honorary fraternity 10 years later.

Neil Armstrong was the chairman of the Purdue Aero Flying Club. His position as chairman enabled him to fly the club’s aircraft, an Aeronca, which he, by the way, damaged in a rough landing in a farmer’s field in Wapakoneta in 1954. He also flew a couple of pipers that would be kept at a nearby Aretz Airport in Lafayette, Indiana.

Armstrong’s university education was made possible through the US Navy scholarship. He later went ahead to further his studies at the University of Southern California for a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering.

Neil Armstrong with his family

Marriage

Neil Armstrong met Janet Elizabeth Shearon at a party hosted by Alpha Chi Omega. Janet Elizabeth was majoring in Home Economics while in college.

The two were married on January 28, 1956. Funny enough, according to the couple, the two never really dated, and neither could they remember the exact circumstances of their engagement. The two love birds tied the knot at the Congregational Church in Wilmette, Illinois.

Neil Armstrong had begun a new journey where he was trying to get established in his career while at the same time working out his marriage.

He Moved to Edwards Air Force Base, where he lived in the bachelor quarters of the base while his wife Janet lived in the Westwood district of Los Angeles.

After one semester, the couple moved into a house in Antelope Valley near Edwards Air force Base. It was now time to build a family for the two, Janet however, did not get the chance to finish her degree. The couple was blessed with three children, namely; Eric, Karen, and Mark.

Life was going on just fine until June 1961 when Karen was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a malignant tumor of the middle part of her brain stem. Efforts by the doctors to slow down tumor growth would work just for a little while.

Karen’s health deteriorated to a point where she could no longer talk or walk. January 28, 1962, was a dark moment for the couple after their daughter succumbed  due to pneumonia, resulting from her weakened immunity.

In 1990, Neil Armstrong and Janet got separated and divorced in 1994.

Neil Armstrong met and married Carol Held Knight as his second wife on June 12, 1994.

Duty Calls

Neil Armstrong was called back to service after 2 years of active duty with the Navy. At this time, he won his jet pilot wings at the Naval Air Station in Florida.

Neil Armstrong made a record as he was the youngest pilot in his squadron. In service, he flew 78 combat missions during the Korean civil war between North and South Korea, which took place between 1950-1953.

After the war was over, Neil Armstrong made a return to Purdue University for the completion of his degree which he successfully did in 1955.

Immediately after the completion of his degree, Neil Armstrong was offered a job that he gladly accepted with the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in his home town Cleveland, Ohio.

Armstrong made his first test flight on March 1, 1955. He worked at Cleveland for a couple of months before getting a position at the High-Speed Flight Station, where he reported on July 11, 1955.

On the first day, his job was piloting chase planes during the release of experimental aircraft from modified bombers.

On March 22, 1956, he was in a Boeing B-29 with left-hand seat commander, Stan Butchart, who flew the B-29, which was to air-drop a Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket.

Neil Armstrong served as project pilot on Century Series fighters some of which include;

    • The North American F-100 Super Sabre A and C variants
    • The McDonnell F-101 Voodoo
    • The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter
    • The Republic F-105 Thunderchief
    • The Convair F-106 Delta Dart

He flew; 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.

Neil Armstrong was one of the eight elite pilots in the Parasev Paraglider research vehicle program.

Armstrong flew over 200 different aircraft models in his career.

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First Man On Moon - Neil Alden Armstrong
Image Source

Journey To NASA

Neil Armstrong was employed at NASA on October 1, 1958, after it took over NACA. He was so good at his job that he got praises from his colleagues due to his engineering abilities.

His astronautic career kicked off at NASA. Project Mercury was one of NASA’s, which was only restricted to military test pilots, and so because of this, Armstrong was ineligible to become one of the Astronauts.

Neil Armstrong was finally on the list of the NASA Astronaut Corps. Armstrong was selected as the backup crew for Gemini 5 on February 8, 1965. Gemini 8, launched on March 16, 1966, was next in line, and this saw Armstrong become the first American Civilian in space.

Gemini 8 mission was the most complex for Neil Armstrong. However, despite all the challenges encountered, he received the Exceptional Service Medal from NASA. He then became the most paid NASA astronaut after his pay was raised to $21,653 annually.

At NASA, Neil Armstrong was considered as a humble person with no ego.

On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 was launched with the aim of safe landing on the moon. “I am going to step off the Lunar module,” Armstrong turned as he set his left boot on the lunar surface at 02:56 UTC. “That is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

These were the words uttered by the first man who walked on the moon.

19 minutes after Armstrong had landed on the moon, he was joined by Buzz Aldrin, who then became the second man to land on the moon. The two planted the flag of the United States of America.

Neil Armstrong went for a walk 65 yards (59m) east of the lunar module. This is the greatest distance traveled from the Lunar Module on a mission.

Back Home from the Moon

After the Apollo 11 mission, the astronauts returned to earth and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. The crew then embarked on a 38-day Giant Leap tour across the US and around the world.

Neil Armstrong together with his crew received a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Religion

Neil Armstrong was a scientist, did he have a religious life?

Armstrong’s mother said that his religious views caused her grief and distress in later life. In the early 1980s, Armstrong was subject to a hoax saying that he had converted into Islam after hearing ‘adhan’ which is the Muslim call to pray while walking on the moon.

First Man To Walk On Moon - Neil Armstrong in his later days of life

Illness and Death

On August 7, 2012, Neil Armstrong underwent bypass surgery to relieve coronary artery disease. During the recovery period, he developed complications in the hospital and succumbed to death on August 25. The legend died at the age of 82.

Truly, Neil Armstrong is among the greatest American heroes of all time and will be remembered as being the first man to walk on the moon.

Famous Quotes by Neil Armstrong

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”


“You’ve got to expect things are going to go wrong. And we always need to prepare ourselves for handling the unexpected.”


“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”


“I think we’re going to the moon because it’s in the nature of the human being to face challenges.”


“Man must understand his universe in order to understand his destiny.”


“Ever since I was a little boy, I dreamed I would do something important in aviation.”


“Pilots take no special joy in walking: pilots like flying.”


“It’s a great thing for a man to walk on the moon. But it’s a greater thing for God to walk on the earth.”


“Shoot for the stars but if you happen to miss shoot for the moon instead.”

 

Written By: Simone Njenga

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