History in Ohio: Birthplace of Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong was an astronaut who commanded Apollo 11, the first spacecraft with a human crew to land on the moon. Armstrong was also the first person to leave the spacecraft and set foot on the moon. Armstrong was born on Aug. 5, 1930, in Ohio. From an early age, Armstrong loved flying, so it wasn’t surprising that he eventually decided to become an astronaut.

Early Life

Armstrong wanted to be a pilot from the time he was a young child, and he earned his pilot’s license when he was 15 years old. He went to Purdue University to earn a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. Then, he went on to earn his master’s degree in aerospace engineering. While he was in college, Armstrong became a fighter pilot for the Navy, and he fought in the Korean War.

Becoming an Astronaut

After Armstrong finished college, he became a test pilot who flew experimental planes to see how well they could fly. Then, Armstrong applied to become an astronaut. In 1962, the NASA Astronaut Corps chose him to begin training. The training involved many different tests, but Armstrong was able to pass them and become part of only the second group of NASA astronauts.

First Trip Into Space

Neil Armstrong traveled into space for the first time on a spacecraft called Gemini 8. Gemini 8 launched on March 16, 1966, from Cape Kennedy. He was the command pilot of Gemini 8. Part of the capsule’s mission was involved with docking two vehicles together out in space, because NASA had to be able to do this maneuver before trying to land a spacecraft on the moon. Unfortunately, this trip was interrupted due to loss of control of the spacecraft. Later, NASA determined that a thruster was firing erratically due to a short circuit. The Gemini began to spin at a fast rate, and the astronauts couldn’t stop it. Armstrong was able to turn off one system, use a different control system, and stop the spinning.

Apollo 11

Armstrong was offered the position of commander of Apollo 11 on Dec. 23, 1968. The United States was planning the first human landing on the moon, and everyone in the country was excited. Both the Soviet Union and the United States were working to be first to put a man on the moon. If the United States won the race, Armstrong would be the first person to walk on the moon. Apollo 11 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969. Although some technical issues happened during the flight, Armstrong was able to land on the moon with just a few seconds’ worth of fuel to spare. After landing on July 21, 1969, Armstrong’s voice could be heard announcing that “the Eagle,” the nickname for the lunar module, had landed. Next, Armstrong left Apollo 11 to walk on the moon. Armstrong’s first words on the moon were: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Astronaut Buzz Aldrin also walked on the moon with Armstrong. The two men collected moon rocks while they walked on the moon. They stayed on the moon for about 21 hours. Apollo 11 landed back on Earth on July 24.

After Apollo 11

Research and development is a fundamental pillar of NASA’s ability to pave the way forward in aerospace technology. Armstrong continued to work for NASA after his Apollo 11 flight. He also taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio between 1971 and 1979. Armstrong received many special honors during his life, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He died on Aug. 25, 2012, at the age of 82 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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