Neil Armstrong (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: The first man to walk on the surface of the Moon, on July 20, 1969, Armstrong was commander of Apollo 11, the first spacecraft to carry men to the Moon and back to Earth.
Neil Alden Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, was born August 5, 1930, on a farm in Auglaize County near Wapakoneta, Ohio. He was the eldest son of Stephen and Viola Armstrong; his younger brother, Dean Alan, was born in Jefferson, Ohio, and had a long career with the Delco Division of General Motors Corporation at Anderson, Indiana; Neil also had a sister, June Louise. Stephen Armstrong was an auditor for the State of Ohio, and his work took the family across the state to many towns. The Armstrongs moved from Warren to Jefferson, to Ravenna, to St. Mary’s, Upper Sandusky, and finally to a more permanent home in Wapakoneta. The Armstrongs were descendants of Scotch-Irish immigrants, while the mother’s ancestors were of German background. Neil’s father eventually was made the assistant director of mental hygiene and corrections of the state of Ohio.
Armstrong began his formal education in the public schools of Warren, Ohio, where he attended Champion Heights Elementary School. His advanced reading ability (he had read ninety books in the first grade) permitted him to skip the second grade. Known as a shy and modest boy, he played baseball and football with friends and enjoyed school...
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Armstrong, Neil (1930- ) (World of Earth Science)
Neil Armstrong was the first human to stand on the Moon. The former test pilot's lunar stroll on July 20, 1969 marked the pinnacle of the most ambitious engineering project ever undertaken. Afterwards, Armstrong pursued a career in aerospace teaching, research, and business.
Neil Alden Armstrong was fascinated by flying from the time of his first airplane ride when he was a six-year-old boy in Ohio. He was the son of Stephen Armstrong, an auditor who moved his family several times during Armstrong's childhood. When Neil was 13, Stephen and his wife, the former Viola Louise Engel, along with Neil and his younger brother and sister, settled in the town of Wapakoneta. Armstrong earned his pilot's license before his driver's license, and at sixteen was not only flying airplanes, but also experimenting with a wind tunnel he had built in his basement. He worked a variety of jobs to pay for his flying lessons and also played in a jazz band, pursuing the musical interest that remained a hobby throughout his life. Armstrong earned a Navy scholarship to Purdue University, which he entered in 1947. His schooling was interrupted when the Navy called him to active duty. Armstrong soon qualified as a Navy pilot, and he was flying combat missions in Korea at the age of 20. He flew 78 missions, earning three air medals.
After the Korean conflict, Armstrong left the navy and returned to Purdue. In 1955, he earned his bachelor's in aerospace engineering. In 1956, he married fellow Purdue student Janet Shearon. By then, Armstrong was a test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the forerunner of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). At NACA's facility at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Armstrong flew a variety of aircraft under development. In 1960, Armstrong made his first of seven trips to the fringes of space in the X5 rocket plane. The X5, a sleek craft air-launched from a B2 bomber and landed on Edwards's famous dry lake bed, gathered data about highspeed flight and atmospheric reentry that influenced many future designs, including the space shuttle.
When the astronaut program was first announced, Armstrong discounted it, believing that the winged X5 design and not the Mercury capsule was the better approach to space. After John Glenn made the first U.S. orbital flight in 1962, Armstrong changed his mind and applied for NASA's astronaut corps. He was accepted into the second group of astronauts, becoming the first civilian to be chosen. In March, 1966, after serving as a backup for the Gemini-Titan 5 mission, Armstrong made his first space flight as commander of Gemini-Titan 8. On this mission, Armstrong's capsule achieved the first docking between spacecraft in orbit. After docking the Gemini spacecraft to the Agena target vehicle, however, the combined vehicles began to tumble uncontrollably. Armstrong and co-astronaut David Scott disengaged the Agena and found the problem was a thruster on their capsule that was firing continuously. They had to shut down the flight control system to stop it, an action that forced the two astronauts to abort their flight.
Armstrong moved on to the moon-bound Apollo program. He was instrumental in adding a system that, in the event of a failure of the Saturn 5 booster's guidance system, would allow the astronauts to fly the enormous vehicle manually. Armstrong was on the backup crew for Apollo 8, and in January, 1969, was selected to command Apollo 11. The crew included lunar module pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. and command module pilot Michael Collins. Armstrong carried with him a piece of fabric and a fragment of a propeller from American aviators Wilbur and Orville Wrights' first airplane.
On July 20, 1969, the spider-shaped lunar module Eagle carried Armstrong and Aldrin toward the Sea of Tranquility. The pre-selected landing area turned out to be much rougher than thought, and Armstrong was forced to guide the Eagle over the terrain until he found a vacant site. The two men finally brought their craft to a soft landing with approximately thirty seconds' worth of fuel remaining. "The Eagle has landed," Armstrong reported. Almost seven hours later, he climbed down the ladder and took the epochal first step on the moon. Television viewers around the world watched as the astronaut in his bulky white suit uttered the words, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." (Viewers did not hear the word "a"; Armstrong later explained that his voice-operated microphone, which "can lose you a syllable," failed to transmit the word.)
Joined by Aldrin, Armstrong spent nearly three hours walking on the moon. The astronauts deployed experiments, gathered samples, and planted an American flag. They also left a mission patch and medals commemorating American and Russian space explorers who had died in the line of duty, along with a plaque reading, "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. We came in peace for all mankind." Then the three men took their command module Columbia safely back to Earth. Armstrong and the other Apollo 11 astronauts then traveled around the world for parades and speeches. The mission brought honors including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Harmon International Aviation Trophy, the Royal Geographic Society's Hubbard Gold Medal, and other accolades from a total of seventeen nations. Armstrong became a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the American Astronautical Society, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Apollo 11 was Armstrong's final space mission. He moved to NASA's Office of Advanced Research and
Technology, where he served as deputy associate administrator for aeronautics. One of his major priorities in this position was to further research into controlling high-performance aircraft by computer. In 1970, he earned his master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.
A quiet man who values his privacy, Armstrong rejected most opportunities to profit from his fame. He left NASA in 1971, and moved his family back to Ohio to accept a position at the University of Cincinnati. There he spent seven years engaged in teaching and research as a professor of aerospace engineering. He took special interest in the application of space technology to challenges on Earth such as improving medical devices and providing data on the environment. In 1978, Armstrong was one of the first six recipients of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, created to recognize astronauts whose "exceptionally meritorious efforts" had contributed to "the welfare of the Nation and mankind."