Neil Alden Armstrong, 1930 - 2012

portrait of Neil Armstrong
NASA portrait (1 July 1969)
Neil Armstrong signature
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Born: 5 August 1930, Wapakoneta, Ohio
Died: 25 August 2012, Cincinnati, Ohio

Neil Alden Armstrong was born at Wapakoneta, Ohio on 5 August 1930. At age six he had a ride in a Ford Trimotor, at fifteen he had his pilot's license. His father was a state auditor and the family lived in twenty towns in fifteen years but returned to Wapakoneta in time for Neil to graduate from high school there. He studied aerospace engineering at Purdue University under the Navy's Holloway Plan of two years of school, three years active duty, and two years to finish school. Armstrong flew 78 reconnaissance and bombing missions over Korea, including one in which he was hit by anti-aircraft fire, clipped a pole with one wing before gaining control, and limped back to friendly territory and ejected. He returned to Purdue, married, and graduated in 1955 (he would add a Master of Science from the University of Southern California in 1970). He became a test pilot for NACA (predecessor to NASA) at Edwards AFB, flying over 2,400 hours in over 200 models of planes, many experimental, including the X-15. Armstrong was one of the six pilot-engineers hired to fly the X-20 Dyno-Soar space plane, which was never built. He left when he was chosen as one of the second cadre of astronauts in 1962. He was Command Pilot of Gemini 8, NASA's first civilian astronaut, in which he docked with an Lockheed Agena target vehicle. One attitude control rocket shorted out and put the docked craft into a roll, it worsened when Armstrong separated, causing the Gemini capsule to rotate once per second. He shut down the main system and used the landing retros to stabilize the capsule, mission protocol required landing at the first opportunity after that and he conducted NASA's first emergency reentry. He is best known for the Apollo 11 mission during which he was the first person to walk on the Moon. Armstrong took an executive position at NASA for a year, taught engineering for eight years at the University of Cincinnati, bought a farm, and served on several corporate boards. He returned to NASA briefly to serve as vice-chairman of the Rogers Commission which investigated the Challenger mission failure. Armstrong had surgery to relieve blocked coronary arteries on 7 August 2012, he died from complications during his recovery.

There are two quotes from Armstrong that you will not find here. One has him claiming that "every human has a finite number of heartbeats" and asserts that he won't waste any of them jogging. The other is a risqué story that allegedly led to Armstrong saying "Good luck, Mr Gorsky" from the moon. He didn't say it, it isn't in any of the tapes from the mission, and he has denied the entire story. If you really want the details, just Google "Mr Gorsky". On the other hand, recent computer analysis of the recording shows that he really did say "one small step for a man", however briefly and masked by poor sound quality.

Biography from Wikipedia and The New York Times obituary

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