Neil Armstrong, the astronaut who marked an epochal achievement in exploration with “one small step” from the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969, becoming the first person to walk on the moon, has died at 82.
In tribute to this hero, I've decided to write about his life today.
A taciturn engineer and test pilot who was never at ease with his fame, Mr. Armstrong was among the most heroized Americans of the 1960s Cold War space race.
Twelve years after the Soviet Sputnik satellite reached space first, deeply alarming U.S. officials, and after President John F. Kennedy in 1961 declared it a national priority to land an American on the moon “before this decade is out,” Mr. Armstrong, a former Navy fighter pilot, commanded the NASA crew that finished the job.
His trip to the moon — particularly the hair-raising final descent from lunar orbit to the treacherous surface — was history’s boldest feat of aviation. Yet what the experience meant to him, what he thought of it all on an emotional level, he mostly kept to himself.
Like his boyhood idol, transatlantic aviator Charles A. Lindbergh, Mr. Armstrong learned how uncomfortable the intrusion of global acclaim can be. And just as Lindbergh had done, he eventually shied from the public and avoided the popular media.
In time, he became almost mythical.
After flying experimental rocket planes in the 1950s at Edwards Air Force Base in California — the high-desert realm of daredevil test pilots later celebrated in author Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” — Mr. Armstrong was selected for NASA’s astronaut corps in 1962 and became the first U.S. civilian to be blasted into space.
In 1966, during his only space flight other than Apollo 11, a life-threatening malfunction of his Gemini 8 vehicle caused the craft to tumble out of control in Earth orbit. It was the nation’s first potentially fatal crisis in space, prompting Mr. Armstrong and his crewmate, David Scott, to abort their mission and carry out NASA’s first emergency reentry.
His skill and composure were put to no greater test, though, than in the anxious minutes starting at 4:05 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, July 20, 1969. That was when the lunar module carrying Mr. Armstrong and Aldrin, having separated from the Apollo 11 capsule, began its hazardous, 9-mile final descent to the moon’s Sea of Tranquility.
Collins, waiting in lunar orbit, could only hope that the two would make it back.
The lunar module, or LM (pronounced lem), was dubbed “Eagle.” Its 1969 computer, overtaxed during the descent and flashing alarm lights as it fell behind on its work, guided the spider-like craft most of the way to the surface.
“Pilots take no particular joy in walking,” he once remarked. “Pilots like flying.”
‘One giant leap’
How Mr. Armstrong wound up commanding the historic flight had to do with his abilities and experience, plus a measure of good fortune.
As for his famous statement upon stepping off the ladder, Mr. Armstrong said he didn’t dwell on it much beforehand, that the idea came to him only after the landing.
He would always maintain that he had planned to say “a man.” Whether the “a” was lost in transmission or Mr. Armstrong misspoke has never been fully resolved. As his boots touched the lunar surface at 10:56:15 p.m. Eastern time, the world heard:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Ever the precise engineer, Mr. Armstrong later said that if it were up to him, history would record his immortal words with an “a” inserted in parenthesis.
The ultimate mission
Neil Alden Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, outside the little farming town of Wapakoneta in western Ohio. From the morning in 1936 when his father, an auditor of county records, let him skip Sunday school so the two could go aloft in a barnstorming Ford Trimotor plane near their home, the boy was hooked on aviation.
He got his pilot’s license on his 16th birthday, before he was legally old enough to go solo in an automobile.
After a few semesters at Purdue University, he left for Navy flight training in 1949, eventually becoming the youngest pilot in his fighter squadron on the aircraft carrier USS Essex. He flew 78 combat missions in the Korean War and was shot down once before his tour of duty ended and he went back to Purdue.
After earning an aeronautical engineering degree in 1955, he joined NASA’s forerunner, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and was soon rocketing in the stratosphere, pushing the boundaries of aviation in missile-like research planes.
This story is a true test of 1 man"s will to go far. As the saying goes reach for the the stars so that if you fail, you will land on the clouds.Neil Armstrong d not set his sights just on the stars but on the whole of space and he became the first man to land on the moon.He dreamed of becoming just a pilot and in the end he became the first man to step on the moon just showing you how far one's dreams can get you.So if you have dreams don't just ignore them or hold them off do it right away.Carpe Diem!
Dean Pillay @Ternomics #Elite team
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