On his 16th birthday, Neil Armstrong was issued a pilot’s license. He did not yet have his driver’s license. Neil Armstrong was destined to fly. At age 39, Neil Armstrong piloted the Apollo 11 spacecraft, and landed on the moon.
Born in 1930, on August 5th, in Auglaize County, Ohio, Armstrong was six years old when he first boarded a plane, a Ford Tri-Motor known as the Tin Goose. In 1949, he entered the Navy, and at the age of 20 became the youngest pilot in his squadron at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida. He served in the Korean conflict from 1950 to 1952, during which time he flew 78 combat missions.
After his tour of duty, and earning a degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, or NASA. He was a research pilot at the Lewis Laboratory in Cleveland, then later transferred to the High Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
He achieved an altitude of over 207,000 feet in the X-15 aircraft. But Neil Armstrong wanted more. He wanted to go to outer space, and in 1962, Neil Armstrong became an astronaut. In 1966, he was the command pilot on the spacecraft Gemini 8, and performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.
Astronauts were becoming notables in the American consciousness and were considered American heroes. Neil Armstrong, with his war hero status and his clean cut, all-American good looks was an excellent candidate for that all important mission, the moon landing.
On Wednesday, July 16, 1969, the world watched the launch of the first manned mission to the moon. On July 20th, Neil Armstrong stepped down from the Apollo 11 spacecraft, and was the first man to step onto the surface of the moon. He spoke to the world. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
What can a man do after he has made history? He can become the Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics at NASA Headquarters of Advanced Research and Technology.
Neil Armstrong left NASA in 1971. He has taught at the University of Cincinnati, served as Chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, and was vice-chairman of the presidential commission to investigate the Challenger explosion. After he retired, he settled on a small farm in his home state of Ohio, and maintains his residence in his home state.