Neil A. Armstrong: (1930-2012).
Neil Alden Armstrong, first man to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, and who uttered the famous line, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," died on August 25, 2012, at the age of eighty-two.
Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and from a young age was fascinated with aviation, experimenting with model airplanes and a home-built wind tunnel. At fifteen he began flying lessons in an Aeronca Champion, and by sixteen, acquired his student pilot's license. In 1947, he enrolled at Purdue University on a Navy scholarship to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering, but in 1949, the Navy called him to active duty. As a navy pilot, he flew seventy-eight combat missions. He was shot down once and received three medals for his military service. In 1952, he returned to his studies and completed his BS at Purdue and an MS in aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California.
In 1955, he became a civilian research pilot at the Lewis Research Center of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the forerunner of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Later that year, he transferred to NACA's high-speed flight station (today, NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center) at Edwards AFB, in California as an aeronautical research scientist, and then as a pilot. He was a test pilot on many pioneering high-speed aircraft, including the 4,000mph X-15. He flew more than 200 different models of aircraft.
Armstrong was engaged in both the piloting and engineering aspects of the X-15 program from its inception. He completed the first flight in the aircraft equipped with a new self-adaptive flight control system and made seven flights in the rocket plane. In 1962, he was one of the nine test pilots chosen by NASA for its second astronaut-training program.
Armstrong, the astronaut, first flew in March 1966, as commander of Gemini 8. The mission also involved the first serious space emergency, highlighting the dangers of manned space flight. The Gemini 8 mission was designed to perform the first docking in space by astronauts, but after successfully docking, the combined spacecraft went into a spin. Armstrong was eventually able to bring the Gemini craft under control.
On July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off for the moon. Four days later, at 4:18pm Eastern Daylight Time, the Eagle lunar lander was guided to land on a plain near the southwesten edge of the Sea of Tranquility. At 10:56pm Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar module and became the first human to set foot on the moon. Twenty minutes later Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin joined him. The third member of their crew, Michael Collins, orbited overhead in the command module. The two astronauts took numerous photographs, carried out the lunar surface experiments assigned to the mission and collected fifty lbs of samples of lunar soil and rocks. After a rendezvous in space with their command module, the three Apollo astronauts returned to Earth on July 24, 1969.
Following the moon landing and the subsequent world tours by the crew of Apollo 11, Armstrong became deputy associate administrator for aeronautics, NASA headquarters office of advanced research and technology from 1969 to 1971, when he resigned. For the next eight years he was professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Numerous industrial appointments followed, including New York's AIL Systems, where he was chairman from 1981 until 2001. In 1979 he was chairman of the board of Ohio's Cardwell International; from 1982 to 1992 chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, in Virginia.
In 1985-86 he served on the National Commission on Space, a presidential committee to develop goals for a national space program into the 21st century; and was also vice-chairman of the committee investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. During the early 1990s he presented an aviation documentary series for television entitled First Flights. Earlier this year he spoke at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the orbiting of the Earth by the first American to do so, John Glenn.
Armstrong is survived by his second wife, Carol, and two sons from his first marriage, which ended in divorce.