Neil Armstrong

The Humblest Man to Ever Land on the Moon

Brief Biographical Sketch

Neil Armstrong, born in a quiet Ohio town in 1930, was a beacon of the 20th century. Obsessed with aviation from childhood, Armstrong became a successful pilot before choosing to become an astronaut. On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong made history as he took the first steps on the moon, uttering the timeless words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong moved back to Ohio afterwards, rarely granting interviews and living humbly. He passed away on August 25, 2012 at the age of 82.

Early Life

  • Neil Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Auglaize County, Ohio to Stephen and Viola Armstrong
  • The Armstrong family moved a total of 16 times in the first 14 years of Neil's life.
  • Neil's hometown is seen as Wapakoneta, Ohio because he attended Blume High School there.
  • Neil's closest friends were his siblings, with whom he developed a strong bond.
  • Neil was an avid reader of aviation-related books, which helped develop his love of flight.
  • Neil's father was often at work, and so Neil and his siblings were not too close with him.
  • However, Neil still had a great deal of respect for his father.
  • On the other hand, Neil's mother doted on him and let him be independent, which led to his development of self-confidence.
  • Neil first rode a plane at the age of 6.
  • He often dreamed about gliding in the air and was fascinated with aviation.
  • The day he turned 16, Neil got his student's pilot license.
  • Two weeks after that, Neil succeeded in his first solo flight and became a full fledged pilot.
  • Later that year, he graduated high school and personally flew 300 miles to Purdue University to register for classes.

College and Career

  • Neil attended Purdue for two years before leaving to serve in the Korean War for four years, where he flew 78 combat missions.
  • His most notable mission was when he lost control of his plane due to enemy defences and was able to successfully navigate the plane (with part of it's wing missing) to ally territory and eject.
  • When he came back, Neil aced most of his classes and even taught an Aircraft Layout and Detail Design class.
  • He also met his future wife, Janet Shearon, with whom he had three kids.
  • He eventually got his bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering, and from there on he identified himself as an engineer first and a scientist second.
  • Afterwards, he became a test pilot at the Edwards Air Force Base, where he flew dozens of different types of aircraft.
  • It was during his time as a test pilot that he applied and got selected for a US Air Force program to go to space, which would lead into the NASA Gemini and Apollo programs.
  • From 1962 to 1969, Armstrong was active in space exploration, serving in Gemini 8, Gemini 11, and of course, Apollo 11.

Apollo and Afterwards

  • Neil was naturally extremely excited and wildly known during and after the Apollo 11 mission.
  • His famous quote was actually made up after the crew landed on the moon, as Neil did was unsure about the chances of a successful moon landing.
  • The moon landing was actually almost aborted; Neil had to take manual control to find a place safe enough to land.
  • The total time spent on the lunar surface was a little over two hours, during which five pictures were taken.
  • The crew also collected the first lunar rocks, and brought back 48 pounds of samples.
  • Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins were all quarantined for several days just in case they had picked up Moon diseases.
  • Following their return, the whole world knew about Apollo 11.
  • However, Neil quickly retired from being an astronaut and taught at the University of Cininnati for eight years.

Death

  • Armstrong suffered from blocked arteries and he decided to undergo surgery to clear them in August 2012.
  • Previously, he had suffered a heart attack in the 1990s, so this problem had been plaguing him for some time.
  • Unfortunately, he did not recover from the surgery and passed away on August 25, 2012.
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Influences

  • Neil was heavily influenced by his mother. Like her, he was honest, kind, and calm.
  • Viola also bought Neil his first toy airplane when Neil was only 2.
  • John Crites, a mathematics and science teacher at Neil's high school, heavily influenced Neil to pursue a career in science (and specifically in aeronautics).
  • Crites helped Neil in science competitions and entered Neil for the Buckeye Boys Program.
  • Neil's first Boy Scout troop helped solidify Neil's already present hard work mindset.

Motivations

  • Neil had simply loved aviation since he was very young and always wanted to become a pilot. This drove him to excel in mathematics and science and eventually become an excellent pilot.
  • The death of Neil's daughter, Karen, when she was 2 years old, happened right when Neil was considering the space program. Neil's sister June believes that Karen's death led to Neil channeling those negative emotions into becoming an astronaut.
  • By the time Neil was a pilot, many flight records had been broken. This fact helped persuade him to go from pilot to astronaut to maybe seek to create a new record.

Parallels

  • Part of Neil's continued fascination with aircraft came from the Boy Scouts' involvement in World War II. The Scouts devoted their resources to the war cause, and Neil helped with the aviation aspect.
  • The entire aviation industry was in its budding stages when Neil was born. The Wright Brothers had flown the first airplane less than 30 years before. As such, it was a relatively new and fascinating field.
  • The Cold War and the Space Race between the US and the USSR led to massive amounts of money being put into the space agencies (especially after the USSR successfully launched Sputnik). NASA needed astronauts and Neil had the proper qualities.

Different Time Period: Born in early 19th century

  • The main thing to consider is that the airplane would have been invented when Neil was very young.
  • He would probably still be fascinated by aviation.
  • One of his regrets was that all the records were broken by the time he became a full fledged pilot, so Neil may have tried to break these records had he been born earlier.
  • Although there would be a chance, Neil probably wouldn't have become an astronaut because he would have been older than all the other astronaut recruits.
  • He didn't really have childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut either, so not only would he have not gotten the chance, but he probably would not have showed interest.
  • He also would have fought in World War II.

If I Had His Skills

  • If I had Neil Armstrong's work ethic and humility in the early 20th century, I would probably try to help reform the corruption in businesses.
  • The early 20th century, the Progressive Era, had a major aim of reforming big businesses and trusts.
  • With Neil's work ethic and persistence, I could gain a high standing in a big company and begin to create changes from the inside.
  • I would probably also write an autobiography later on about the troubles and my life during the Great Depression and World War II.

"It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."- Neil Armstrong

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Most Important Contribution

Neil Armstrong's most important contribution was his involvement in the Apollo program, through which he became the first man to land on the moon. This was a huge accomplishment because politically and socially it put the USA ahead of the USSR. In addition, this landing inspired people everywhere and showed the world that humans were not confined to Earth.

Moral Decision

One of his biggest (and controversial) moral decisions was what to do after baby Karen died. Neil was obviously grief-stricken, as was Janet. What Neil chose to do instead of staying at home with Janet was to go back into his job as a test pilot and continue making runs. This decision was probably a contributing factor to Armstrong's decision to chose NASA over his other career options. Neil's passion was flying, so by choosing to go to his job and fly in order to overcome his sorrow, Neil was able to clear his mind and choose what he thought was the best career path for him.
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