Was an American astronaut and aeronautical engineer, and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also a naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor.
A graduate of Purdue University, Armstrong studied aeronautical engineering; his college tuition was paid for by the U.S. Navy under the Holloway Plan. He became a midshipman in 1949 and a naval aviator the following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. In September 1951, while making a low bombing run, Armstrong’s aircraft was damaged when it collided with an anti-aircraft cable, strung across a valley, which cut off a large portion of one wing. Armstrong was forced to bail out. After the war, he completed his bachelor’s degree at Purdue and became a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was the project pilot on Century Series fighters and flew the North American X-15 seven times. He was also a participant in the U.S. Air Force’s Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs.
Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in the second group, which was selected in 1962. He made his first spaceflight as command pilot of Gemini 8 in March 1966, becoming NASA’s first civilian astronaut to fly in space. During this mission with pilot David Scott, he performed the first docking of two spacecraft; the mission was aborted after Armstrong used some of his reentry control fuel to stabilize a dangerous roll caused by a stuck thruster. During training for Armstrong’s second and last spaceflight as commander of Apollo 11, he had to eject from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle moments before a crash.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the Moon, and the next day they spent two and a half hours outside the Lunar Module Eagle spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Apollo Command Module Columbia. When Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, he famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon. President Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and Armstrong and his former crewmates received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
After he resigned from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati until 1979. He served on the Apollo 13 accident investigation and on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Armstrong was born near Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930, the son of Viola Louise (née Engel) and Stephen Koenig Armstrong. He was of German, Scots-Irish, and Scottish descent. He had a younger sister, June, and a younger brother, Dean. His father was an auditor for the Ohio state government, and the family moved around the state repeatedly, living in 16 towns over the next 14 years. Armstrong’s love for flying grew during this time, having started at the age of two when his father took him to the Cleveland Air Races. When he was five or six, he experienced his first airplane flight in Warren, Ohio, when he and his father took a ride in a Ford Trimotor (also known as the “Tin Goose”).
The family’s last move was in 1944 and took them back to Wapakoneta, where Armstrong attended Blume High School and took flying lessons at the Wapakoneta airfield. He earned a student flight certificate on his 16th birthday, then soloed in August, all before he had a driver’s license. He was an active Boy Scout and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. As an adult, he was recognized by the Scouts with their Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo Award. While flying toward the Moon on July 18, 1969, he sent his regards to attendees at the National Scout Jamboree in Idaho. Among the few personal items that he carried with him to the Moon and back was a World Scout Badge.
At age 17, in 1947, Armstrong began studying aeronautical engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He was the second person in his family to attend college. He was also accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but he resolved to go to Purdue after watching a football game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Ohio Stadium in 1945, in which quarterback Bob DeMoss led the Boilermakers to a sound victory over the highly regarded Buckeyes. An uncle who attended MIT had also advised him that he could receive a good education without going all the way to Cambridge, Massachusetts. His college tuition was paid for under the Holloway Plan. Successful applicants committed to two years of study, followed by two years of flight training and one year of service as an aviator in the U.S. Navy, then completion of the final two years of their bachelor’s degree. Armstrong did not take courses in naval science, nor did he join the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.
That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
Illness and Death
Armstrong underwent bypass surgery on August 7, 2012, to relieve coronary artery disease. Although he was reportedly recovering well, he developed complications in the hospital and died on August 25, in Cincinnati, Ohio, aged 82. The White House released a statement in which President Obama described Armstrong as “among the greatest of American heroes—not just of his time, but of all time”. It went on to say that Armstrong had carried the aspirations of the United States’ citizens and had delivered “a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”
Armstrong’s family released a statement describing him as a “reluctant American hero 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. For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment, and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.” It prompted many responses, including the Twitter hashtag “#WinkAtTheMoon”.
Buzz Aldrin called Armstrong “a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew”, and said he was disappointed that they would not be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing together in 2019. Michael Collins said, “He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.” NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. said, “As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind’s first small step on a world beyond our own”.
A tribute was held for Armstrong on September 13, at Washington National Cathedral, whose Space Window depicts the Apollo 11 mission and holds a sliver of Moon rock amid its stained-glass panels. In attendance were Armstrong’s Apollo 11 crewmates, Collins and Aldrin; Gene Cernan, the Apollo 17 mission commander and last man to walk on the Moon; and former senator and astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. In his eulogy, Charles Bolden praised Armstrong’s “courage, grace, and humility”. Cernan recalled Armstrong’s low-fuel approach to the Moon: “When the gauge says empty, we all know there’s a gallon or two left in the tank!” Diana Krall sang the song “Fly Me to the Moon”. Collins led prayers. David Scott spoke, possibly for the first time, about an incident during their Gemini 8 mission: minutes before the hatch was to be sealed, a small chip of dried glue fell into the latch of his harness and prevented it from being buckled, threatening to abort the mission. Armstrong then called on Conrad to solve the problem, which he did, and the mission proceeded. “That happened because Neil Armstrong was a team player—he always worked on behalf of the team.” Congressman Bill Johnson from Armstrong’s home state of Ohio led calls for President Barack Obama to authorize a state funeral in Washington D.C. Throughout his lifetime, Armstrong shunned publicity and rarely gave interviews. Mindful that Armstrong would have objected to a state funeral, his family opted to have a private funeral in Cincinnati. On September 14, Armstrong’s cremated remains were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean from the USS Philippine Sea. Flags were flown at half-staff on the day of Armstrong’s funeral.
In July 2019, after observations of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, The New York Times reported on details of a medical malpractice suit Armstrong’s family had filed against Mercy Health–Fairfield Hospital, where he died. When Armstrong appeared to be recovering from his bypass surgery, nurses removed the wires connected to his temporary pacemaker. He began to bleed internally and his blood pressure dropped. Doctors took him to the hospital’s catheterization laboratory, and only later began operating. Two of the three physicians who reviewed the medical files during the lawsuit called this a serious error, saying surgery should have begun immediately; experts the Times talked to while qualifying their judgment by noting that they were unable to review the specific records in the case, said that taking a patient in those circumstances to the operating room generally gave them the highest chance of survival.
The family ultimately settled for $6 million in 2014. Letters included with the 93 pages of documents sent to the Times by an unknown individual show that his sons intimated to the hospital, through their lawyers, that they might discuss what happened to their father publicly at the 45th-anniversary observances in 2014. The hospital, fearing the bad publicity that would result from being accused of negligently causing the death of a revered figure such as Armstrong, agreed to pay as long as the family never spoke about the suit or the settlement. Armstrong’s wife, Carol, was not a party to the lawsuit. She reportedly felt that her husband would have been opposed to taking legal action.
Relationship: eighth cousin once removed ascending
Burl Caleb Best
Coy Oscar Best
Mary Elizabeth Carpenter
Thomas Dickenson Carpenter
John Cordwainer Cox
Margaret Van Nuys
Willis J Armstrong
Stephen Koenig Armstrong
Neil Alden Armstrong