Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Dead at 82

Posted August 27th, 2012 at 7:43 pm (UTC+0)
10 comments

Official NASA Apollo 11 portrait of Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the Lunar Landing mission. (Photo: NASA)

Official NASA Apollo 11 portrait of Astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, commander of the Lunar Landing mission. (Photo: NASA)

Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the surface of the moon, died Saturday  from heart-surgery related complications. He was 82.

It was more than 40 years ago that Armstrong uttered the now-iconic words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” forever sealing his place in history.

He spoke the words just before stepping onto the moon, effectively ending the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Neil Alden Armstrong was born on Aug. 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. His love of flying began at age 2 when his father took him to the Cleveland Air Races.

Throughout his childhood, while his family moved from one small Ohio town to another, Armstrong’s interest in flying grew. He read countless fiction and non-fiction books on aviation.

After high school, Armstrong entered a special US Navy program that allowed him to complete his first year and a half at Purdue University before being called up for naval service where he flew a number of missions during the Korean War.

Test pilot Neil Armstrong with the rocket-powered X-15-3 aircraft (Photo: NASA)

Test pilot Neil Armstrong with the rocket-powered X-15-3 aircraft (Photo: NASA)

Following his service in the US Navy, Armstrong earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering and became an experimental research test pilot, flying a variety of airplanes and jets, including the famous X-15 rocket powered aircraft.

In June of 1962, Armstrong learned NASA was looking for its second group of astronauts.  He submitted his application, but it arrived about a week after the applications were due.  Fortunately for Armstrong, an old friend working at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft center saw his late-arriving application and slipped it into the group of applications being considered.

On Sept. 13, 1962,  Armstrong was invited to join NASA’s Astronaut Corps as part of   “the New Nine,” the next group of US astronauts following the original Mercury 7 astronauts.

Armstrong first flew into space on March 16, 1966, as command pilot for the two-man Gemini 8 mission. At the time, it was the most complex manned space flight attempted by NASA.  Gemini 8 was the first US space mission to rendezvous and dock with another spacecraft, an unmanned vehicle called the Agena.  Armstrong later served as a back-up command pilot for the Gemini 11 mission.

July 16, 1969 - Mission commander Neil Armstrong, command module pilot Michael Collins, and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin prepare to ride the special transport van to Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A where their Apollo 11 spacecraft awaited them.  (Photo: NASA)

July 16, 1969 – Mission commander Neil Armstrong, command module pilot Michael Collins, and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin prepare to ride the special transport van to Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A where their Apollo 11 spacecraft awaited them. (Photo: NASA)

In April 1967, Armstrong was selected for  NASA’s Apollo program, placing him  among a group of astronauts bound for the moon.

After serving as back-up commander for Apollo 8, the mission that first orbited the moon in 1968, Armstrong was teamed up with fellow astronauts, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins for the Apollo 11 mission, which put  the first man on the moon.

On July 16, 1969, Armstrong, – along with crewmates Aldrin and Collins – climbed into the space capsule, nicknamed Columbia. Powered by the monstrous Saturn V launch vehicle, Apollo 11 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center for its 384,000 kilometer trip to the moon.

Four days later, on July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin took the lunar module known as the “Eagle,” for a trip from the orbiting command module to the surface of the moon.

About seven hours after the Eagle landed at the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong  climbed down the Eagle’s ladder and onto the surface of the moon.

The world celebrated as they watched Armstrong and Aldrin do what most thought was impossible – walk on the moon.

Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface, taken by Buzz Aldrin, July 1969 (Photo: NASA)

Neil Armstrong on the lunar surface, taken by Buzz Aldrin, July 1969 (Photo: NASA)

After spending about 21 hours on the lunar surface, the Eagle left the moon to rendezvous with the command module for the trip back to Earth.  Apollo 11’s historic mission ended with a  splash into the North Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.

Shortly after the Apollo 11 flight, Armstrong announced  he would not return to space.

About a year after his history-making moment, Armstrong earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He resigned from NASA in 1971.

After NASA, Armstrong taught  at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio), served on the board of directors of several major corporations and was chairman of the EDO Corporation, which designed and manufactured products  used in defense, intelligence, and commercial industries.  He retired from EDO in 2002.

Armstrong was selected to serve on panels investigating both the Apollo 13 accident in 1970 and, later, the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster.

A few weeks ago, Armstrong underwent surgery to relieve blocked coronary arteries. He died Saturday from complications related to the procedure surgery.

Buzz Aldrin, who piloted the Apollo 11 lunar module,  said of Armstrong’s passing, “I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Neil Armstrong today. Neil and I trained together as technical partners but were also good friends who will always be connected through our participation in the Apollo 11 mission. Whenever I look at the moon it reminds me of the moment over four decades ago when I realized that even though we were farther away from Earth than two humans had ever been, we were not alone.”

Video montage produced by NASA in 2009 for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 trip to the moon and back.

A statement released by Armstrong’s family after his death, summed it up this way,  ”[he was a] reluctant American hero [and 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.”

10 Responses to “Neil Armstrong, First Man on the Moon, Dead at 82”

  1. William Joseph Keller says:

    God Bless Neil Armstrong in the Highest !
    Neil Armstrong was not only one the Greatest Americans who ever lived
    but also Truly was one of The Greatest Human Beings who ever lived.

  2. [...] InsiderPrivate Neil Armstrong service planned for FridayFox NewsChristian Science Monitor -Voice of America (blog)all 939 news [...]

  3. Anura says:

    I wish him NIRWANA.

  4. I have been blessed to have lived and shared in the U.S. space program, most particularily, from the launch of Alan Shepard on May 5th 1961 when, as a freshman in high school, classes stopped and speakers went on so the whole school could share in the moment, to that remarkable day, July 16th 1969 when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.
    Neil Armstrong became, for me, the embodyment of what we, individually, can be and accomplish by believing in ourselves and the ability of others. His life following his role as Astronaut honors him as a MAN, his passing is a sober reminder, for me, how brief the time is that we have to be the very best that we can be. I will miss just knowing he is here. My love to those he left behind.

  5. Alaina D. says:

    good bless you, Neil Armstrong. :(

  6. abbe abdullahi says:

    Indeed mankind has benefited from his courage many years back. Adieu Neil Amstrong

  7. miami says:

    Anyone know of any tributes that will be held for Mr. Armstrong? I think he at the very least deserves that!

  8. [...] Neil Armstrong’s NASA application was a week late. If it weren’t for his friend, Dick Day, secretly slipping it into the pile, he would have been rejected. Share this:   [...]

  9. [...]  VOANews.com] Category: Fact of the Day Send to a friend! Print this page Share on facebook! Share [...]

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