August | Saturday | 05, 2017 :: Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut, engineer, and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served in the Korean War. After the war, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Purdue University and served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station, where he logged over 900 flights. He later completed graduate studies at the University of Southern California.
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; the family moved around the state repeatedly after Armstrong’s birth, living in 20 towns. Armstrong’s love for flying grew during this time, having gotten off to an early start 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”.
A participant in the U.S. Air Force’s Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs, Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. He made his first space flight as command pilot of Gemini 8 in March 1966, becoming NASA’s first civilian astronaut to fly in space. He performed the first docking of two spacecraft, with pilot David Scott. This mission was aborted after Armstrong used some of his reentry control fuel to prevent a dangerous spin caused by a stuck thruster, in the first in-flight space emergency.
Armstrong’s second and last spaceflight was as commander of Apollo 11, the first manned Moon landing mission 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 awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon. President Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978. Armstrong and his former crewmates received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 25, 2012, at the age of 82, after complications from coronary artery bypass surgery.