Posted By RichC on November 11, 2005
For many baby boomers, “The Eagle has landed” and “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” (click for audio) were monumental audio moments that recall American success and rekindle proud memories of the Apollo space program. Practically every American alive and countless millions around the world held their breath and watched as Apollo 11 astronauts landed NASA’s spidery looking lunar lander on the moon on July 20th 1969. This was an extraordinary event in human history and the memory was rekindled this past week by a rare interview CBS news program “60 minutes” with Neil Armstrong. (view 22 meg .wmv clip)
What made this interview by Ed Bradley unique is that the first man to walk on the moon has been relatively camera shy about his celebrity status. Until this interview Armstrong has not not made many appearances, preferring to live quietly near Cincinnati, Ohio. A biography has recently (published 10/2005) been written by James R. Hanson, title "First Man - The life of Neil Armstrong" is on my Christmas book list, although weighing iin at 784 pages might take a little midnight oil to read.
Perhaps what make this astronaut interesting to many is that one can relate to his persona. I suppose having a daughter with ambitions to be an astronaut and living only a few miles from Mr. Armstrong that I pay a bit more attention than most. I'm am struck by his humble character and normalcy in how he lives his life. Imagine living near Christopher Columbus or other great explorers of the past; would they be just a normal Joe ... yet Neil Armstrong is just that.
He grew up just north of my hometown but lived in several communities, including Warren, Jefferson, Ravenna, St. Mary's, and Upper Sandusky. Because Armstrong's father was an auditor for the State of Ohio, Armstrong grew up in several communities, including Warren, Jefferson, Ravenna, St. Mary's. Wapakoneta is considered his home town and has a unique museum just off Interstate I-75.
As a boy developed an interest in flying at age two when his father took him to the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio, according to historian Rit Nosotro. Mr. Nosotro comments that Armstrong's interest "intensified when he went for his first airplane ride in a Ford Tri-Motor, a "Tin Goose," in Warren, Ohio, at age six" and "from that time on, he claimed an intense fascination with aviation." Of course for those learning to fly at Red Stewarts field, you be glad to know that you are in good company flying classic taildraggers as Neil Armstrong learned to fly in an Aeronca Champ.
Armstrong was born in western Ohio near Wapakoneta, on August 5, 1930. He was fascinated with flight at an early age and was flying before he could drive a car. His career started as a Naval aviator and he served in the Korean War as a fighter pilot flying 78 combat missions from USS Essex in a F9F-2 Panther. He received the Air Medal with two Gold Stars.
Armstrong received his degree after the war at Purdue in Aeronautical Engineering in 1955 and earned a masters degree from the University of Southern California a few years later. After school, Armstrong became a civilian test pilot for the NACA which was the predecessor to NASA and worked at Edwards Air Force Base, California. His work in high speed flight gave him seven flights in the North American X-15, reaching an altitude of 207,500 feet in the X-15-3 and a speed of Mach 5.74 (3,989 mph) in the X-15-1. He left the Flight Research Center with a total of 2,450 flying hours in more than 50 types of aircraft.
In 1962 Neil Armstrong was selected as an astronaut candidate and began his training. He was backup command pilot for the Gemini 5 mission in 1965 and commanded Gemini 8, being the first to dock of two orbiting crafts. He also served as backup command pilot for the Gemini 11 mission in 1966 as commander of the backup crew for the 1968 Apollo 8 lunar orbital mission. In his training as pictured in the "60 Minutes" broadcast, Armstrong narrowly escaped death during training in the crash of a lunar landing research vehicle on May 6, 1968.
Finally in July 1969, Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, which was perhaps the most famous and successful NASA accomplishment in history. This historic landing included lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins.The moon landing took place on after the successful launch from the Cape Kennedy in Florida four days prior. Armstrong took manual control of the Lunar Module Eagle and piloted it away from a rocky area to a safe landing. Upon stepping onto the surface of the moon Neil Armstrong said these now famous words: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." (click for audio)
The Apollo 11 crew returned safely to earth on July 24, 1969 to worldwide acclaim and fanfare. Armstrong eventually settled to a suburb outside Cincinnati, Ohio accepting a teaching position at the University of Cincinnati and served on several corporate boards. He now lives a relatively quiet life and is publicly reserved considering his notoriety.
Hopefully in time, Neil Armstrong will consider visiting our small 'rag tag' Waynesville Ohio EAA chapter, I know we'd love to show him around our hanger.