Introduction and Early Life
Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 - August 25, 2012) was the first person to walk on the Moon! Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, he was learning how to be a pilot by the time he was 16. He’d go on to enroll in Purdue University for aeronautical engineering, before serving as a pilot in the Korean War.
Becoming an Astronaut
Starting in 1955, Armstrong worked for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). In 1958, NACA was reorganized into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Armstrong married Janet Shearon in 1956 and they had three children. (They later separated, in 1994, and Armstrong would marry Carol Held Knight.)
At NACA and NASA, Armstrong had many different jobs, ranging from test pilot and naval aviator to engineer. But he would gain the most fame for his work as an astronaut (which he became in 1962).
First Docking of Two Craft in Space
In 1966, Armstrong and David Scott performed the first successful rendezvous and docking of two vehicles in space, on the Gemini 8 mission. This was Armstrong’s first time in space; he was the command pilot.
To the Moon!
Armstrong was the commander of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, which took off on July 16, 1969. He and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr., descended to the Moon on July 20, 1969, in the Lunar Module Eagle. While Michael Collins orbited the Moon in the command module, Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Mare Tranquillitatis, or the Sea of Tranquility (which is not actually a sea). Upon his first step on the Moon, Armstrong famously said, “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Moon’s surface for about 2 hours, completing scientific experiments, taking rock samples, and leaving both an American flag and their own footsteps behind.
After Returning to Earth
After the Moon, Armstrong stayed on at NASA until 1971 as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics. He also taught at the University of Cincinnati (from 1971 to 1979) and later was on the 1986 Presidential Commission that investigated the Challenger explosion. He was also awarded a number of honorary doctorates, as well as a host of titles the world over.
In his last years, Armstrong remained committed to encouraging space exploration. In 2010 he spoke before the US Congress to protest large cuts that had been made to NASA and its programs.
On August 25, 2012, when Armstrong was 82, he passed away from complications of a heart bypass operation. As the first person to step foot on another world, his legacy lives on with every further leap we make into outer space.