Facts & Observations by Jonathan Sprout
Commander of the Apollo 11 lunar mission in 1969, Mr. Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. Learning how to pilot an airplane before he could drive a car, his passion for flight led him to push the frontiers of air and space exploration. His quiet confidence, burning ambition and willingness to work tirelessly without complaint enabled him to become an outstanding pilot and astronaut. A deeply modest and private man, he left the limelight to become a professor of engineering, considering his extraordinary achievements to be nothing more than doing his job.
“That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” - Neil Armstrong
* Born on grandparent’s farm near Wapakoneta, OH
* First plane ride age 6
* As kid, built model planes. Great Depression of 1930’s - little money for his family
* An exceptional student, he read around 90 books by the time he completed 1st grade
* Skipped 2nd grade after testing at a 5th grade reading level
* Grew up near where Wright Brothers lived
* Took flying lessons - soloed and received student pilot license 16th birthday
* Joined Navy & attended Purdue University, IN
* Pensacola, FL flight training as Naval Air Cadet
* 1950 (age 20) youngest man in his unit to fly combat missions in Korea
* Almost died when wing of his jet clipped a cable stretched across a North Korean Valley. He coaxed his jet back to friendly territory & successfully ejected
* Flew 78 combat missions, awarded 3 Air Medals
* 1952 (age 22) returned to Purdue - Bachelor’s degree flight engineering
* Married Janet Shearson 1956
* 1955 - research pilot, Cleveland, OH
* 1956-62 test pilot Edwards AFB in CA
* Bought old cabin, no electricity, had 2 songs and daughter (she died age 2)
* 1962 - was accepted for astronaut training, Houston, TX
* 3/16/66 - commanded Gemini 8 (w/ David Scott) : * Flight = 10 hr., 42 minutes ... 1st successful docking with a target vehicle ... Near disaster with capsule spinning faster than 1 revolution/ sec ... Lost radio contact, his piloting skills saved mission
* 1/9/69 was chosen w/ Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. for Apollo 11
* 7/16/69 - Perfect Apollo 11 liftoff ... 4 days to reach moon ... Command Module made 12 revolutions around the moon, the Armstrong & Aldrin landed Eagle on 13th ... Lunar Module = Eagle ...
Command Module = Columbia ... Had to hand fly final way to moon ... “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” 7/20/69
* 7/20/69 10:56 pm stepped on moon... At 500 ft. with only 2 minutes to choose between landing or aborting the mission, NA took control of Eagle in reaction to a computer malfunction. ... On the moon for more than 2 hours. Took rock samples, photos, planted US flag ... Left on moon bronze plaque: “Here Man from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July, 1969, AD. We came in peace for all mankind.” ... The 3 Apollo 11 astronauts were the first standing humans to see an Earthrise ... Took off, docked with Command Module and was home in 4 days, landed in Pacific Ocean, U.S.S. Hornet aircraft carrier picked up ... New York City parade bigger than anything since Lindbergh’s welcome from his transatlantic solo flight ... Awarded highest US Civilian award - Presidential Medal of Freedom. Visited 22 countries
* He remained quite shy - man who did not enjoy public attention
* Left NASA in 1971 to teach aerospace engineering at University of Cincinnati for 9 yrs. He now heads an electronics company and lives on a farm in OH.
I’ve heard it said that one of the true measures of a hero is that s/he doesn’t need the world’s acclaim. Mr. Armstrong strikes me as someone who did his job as an astronaut with great skill and grace without needing the world’s attention and recognition.
He represented all of humanity as we collected the genius and resources of millions of people and focused on putting a human on the moon. He was the tip of the iceberg and the symbol of our longing to connect with other worlds. He did not let his ego get the best of him. He knew not to take credit for the hard work by all those before him. He’s a hero in part because he fulfilled the demanding responsibilities of his amazing job and has kept his life in perspective.
Anything is possible, and Armstrong’s mission has shown us this. If we put our minds and hearts and actions together in unison, in harmony, we can do just about anything. Instead of fighting wars, we can unite to explore the planets, to find an end to disease and hunger. Armstrong represents humanity at its best, humanity united in a common goal for the good and inspiration of all.
Armstrong, in that moment of touching the surface of the moon, represented billions of people both living and not, trillions of thoughts and actions, trillions of baby steps that eventually lead the way, little by little, to this momentous step in the history of humankind.
We all in a sense, take baby step after baby step in order to find ourselves, actualize our dreams and make our own reality. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Every step counts. Every thought counts. Every new friendship counts. Everything we do counts as a step along the way in our lives, as a step toward becoming the person we dream of becoming.