Neil Alden Armstrong
first person to set foot on the moon
1930 - ...
Neil Alden Armstrong, a United States astronaut, was the first person to set foot on the moon. On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., landed the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle on the moon, left the module, and explored the lunar surface. Upon taking his first step onto the moon, Armstrong said: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
The words spoken by Armstrong were not entirely impromptu. Soon after the public became aware that he would be the first person to step onto the moon people began to consider what his first words might be. Suggestions were plentiful and included Bible versus as well as lines from Shakespeare but Armstrong did not decide until Apollo 11 was nearing the moon. He began to ponder the enormity of the occasion in relation to the simple step from the bottom of the ladder. He then settled on the now famous words.
Armstrong made his first space flight in 1966 aboard Gemini 8 with David R. Scott. The two men performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space--the Gemini 8 and an unmanned Agena target vehicle.
Armstrong, born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, graduated from Purdue University. He was a Navy pilot from 1949 to 1952 and a civilian test pilot assigned to test the X-15 rocket airplane before becoming an astronaut in 1962. He resigned from the astronaut program in 1970 but worked for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) until 1971. From 1971 to 1979, he was an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati. In 1986, he was named vice chairman of the presidential commission investigating the breakup of the space shuttle Challenger.
Armstrong's many awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received in 1969.
Contributor: James R. Hansen, Ph.D., Alumni Prof./Historian for NASA, Auburn Univ./NASA Langley.
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