It has been confirmed today that Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, passed away last night at 2:45 am, due to complications from heart surgery he had earlier this month. He was 82.
Neil Armstrong was born on August 5th, 1930 in Ohio. His father was a state auditor, and they moved frequently as a child. His love of flying started early, for his father often took him the Cleveland Air Races. He experienced his first airplane ride when he was six, when his father took him up in the Tin Goose, but he didn’t start learning how to fly until his teens. Armstrong attended Purdue University in 1947 and majored in aerospace engineering. His education was paid for by the Holloway plan, which meant that he attended university for two years, then did three years of required military service, and then finished the final two years of his degree. He was first called up in 1949, completed 18 months of training as a Naval Aviator, and was shipped off to the Korean War soon after. He received several medals for his service.
Following his graduation, Armstrong became a test pilot, where he tested rocket planes and other new aeronautical technologies like the X-15, which had one of the first self adjusting control systems. There was no defining moment in his life where he decided he was going to became an astronaut. In fact, the matter wasn’t even really left up to him. In 1958, he was selected for the Air Force’s Soonest Man in Space program. In 1960, he was selected as part of the pilot consultant group for the X-20 Dyna Soar, a military space plane. 1n 1962 he was selected to be one of the pilots who would actually get to fly the thing. It was his inovolvement in this project that got him more and more excited about space flight, and even though his application for NASA’s astronaut program arrived a week after the deadline, he had a friend at NASA who managed to slip it into the pile. The rest, as they say, is history, and on July 20th, 1969, he landed the Apollo 11 spacecraft on the surface of the moon, and became the first man to set foot upon her.
In the years since, he has raised a family, received a masters in aeronautical engineering, and of course received so many medals and honours that it would take me forever to list them here. In 2010, in a speech at the Science and Technology summit at The Hague in the Netherlands, he said that he would be a commander for a manned flight to Mars in a heartbeat. I sincerely hope he was well enough at the time to have enjoyed the Curiosity’s landing earlier this month.