Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut and aeronautical engineer who was the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also a naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor.
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A graduate of Purdue University, Armstrong studied aeronautical engineering with his college tuition paid for by the U.S. Navy under the Holloway Plan. He became a midshipman in 1949, and a naval aviator the following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. In September 1951, he was hit by anti-aircraft fire while making a low bombing run, and was forced to bail out. After the war, he completed his bachelor's degree at Purdue and became a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was the project pilot on Century Series fighters and flew the North American X-15 seven times. He was also a participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs.
Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in the second group, which was selected in 1962. He made his first spaceflight as commander of Gemini 8 in March 1966, becoming NASA's first civilian astronaut to fly in space. During this mission with pilot David Scott, he performed the first docking of two spacecraft; the mission was aborted after Armstrong used some of his re-entry control fuel to stabilize a dangerous roll caused by a stuck thruster. During training for Armstrong's second and last spaceflight as commander of Apollo 11, he had to eject from the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle moments before a crash.
In July 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the Moon, and spent two and a half hours outside the spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the command and service module. When Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, he famously said: "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon. President Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, and Armstrong and his former crewmates received a Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
After he resigned from NASA in 1971, Armstrong taught in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati until 1979. He served on the Apollo 13 accident investigation, and on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. He acted as a spokesman for several businesses, and appeared in advertising for the automotive brand Chrysler starting in January 1979.
Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, near Wapakoneta, Ohio, to Stephen Koenig Armstrong and Viola Louise née Engel. He was of German, Scottish and Scots-Irish ancestry, and had a younger sister, June, and a younger brother, Dean. His father worked as an auditor for the Ohio state government, and the family moved around the state repeatedly, living in sixteen towns over the next fourteen years. Armstrong's love for flying grew during this time, having started early when his father took his two-year-old son to the Cleveland Air Races. When he was five or six, he experienced his first airplane flight in Warren, Ohio, when he and his father took a ride in a Ford Trimotor, also known as the "Tin Goose".
His father's last move was in 1944, back to Wapakoneta. Armstrong attended Blume High School, and took flying lessons at the grassy Wapakoneta airfield. He earned a student flight certificate on his sixteenth birthday, then soloed in August, all before he had a driver's license. He was active in the Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. As an adult, he was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America with its Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo Award. On July 18, 1969, while flying toward the Moon, Armstrong greeted the Scouts. Among the few personal items that he carried with him to the Moon and back was a World Scout Badge.
In 1947, at age 17, Armstrong began studying aeronautical engineering at Purdue University. He was the second person in his family to attend college. He was also accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but an uncle who had attended MIT dissuaded him from attending, telling him that it was not necessary to go all the way to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a good education. His college tuition was paid for under the Holloway Plan. Successful applicants committed to two years of study, followed by two years of flight training and one year of service in the U.S. Navy as an aviator, then completion of the final two years of their bachelor's degree. Armstrong did not take courses in naval science, nor did he join the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Purdue.
Nav Armstrong's family described him as a "reluctant American hero". Recalling Armstrong's humility, John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, told CNN: "[Armstrong] didn't feel that he should be out huckstering himself. He was a humble person, and that's the way he remained after his lunar flight, as well as before." Some former astronauts, including Glenn and Harrison Schmitt, sought political careers after leaving NASA; but although Armstrong was approached by groups from both political parties, he declined the offers. He described his political leanings as favoring states' rights and opposing the United States acting as the "world's policeman".
When Armstrong applied at a local Methodist church to lead a Boy Scout troop in the late 1950s, he gave his religious affiliation as "deist". His mother later said that Armstrong's religious views caused her grief and distress in later life, as she was more religious. In the early 1980s, Armstrong was the subject of a hoax saying that he converted to Islam after hearing the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, while walking on the Moon. The Indonesian singer Suhaemi wrote a song called "Gema Suara Adzan di Bulan" ("The Resonant Sound of the Call to Prayer on the Moon"), describing Armstrong's conversion; the song was discussed widely in Jakarta news outlets in 1983. Similar hoax stories were seen in Egypt and Malaysia. In March 1983, the State Department responded by issuing a message to embassies and consulates in Muslim countries saying that Armstrong "has not converted to Islam". The hoax surfaced occasionally for the next three decades. Part of the confusion arose from the similarity between the names of Armstrong's American residence in Lebanon, Ohio, and the country of Lebanon, which has a majority Muslim population.
An elderly but fit-looking Armstrong in mid-speech. He is wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and a pale blue tie. He holds up his left hand and touches the thumb to the middle finger.
Armstrong speaks in February 2012 on the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's first spaceflight.
In 1972, Armstrong visited the town of Langholm, Scotland, the traditional seat of Clan Armstrong. He was made the first freeman of the burgh, and happily declared the town his home. The Justice of the Peace read from an unrepealed 400-year-old law that required him to hang any Armstrong found in the town.
While working at his farm near Lebanon, Ohio, in November 1978, Armstrong jumped off the back of his grain truck and his wedding ring was caught in the wheel, tearing off the tip of his left hand's ring finger. He collected the severed digit and packed it in ice, and surgeons reattached it at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. In February 1991, a year after his father died, and nine months after the death of his mother, Armstrong suffered a mild heart attack while skiing with friends at Aspen, Colorado.
Armstrong and his first wife, Janet, separated in 1990 and divorced in 1994, after 38 years of marriage. He met his second wife, Carol Held Knight, at a golf tournament in 1992, when they were seated together at breakfast. She said little to Armstrong, but two weeks later he called her to ask what she was doing. She replied that she was cutting down a cherry tree, and 35 minutes later Armstrong was at her house to help. They were married in Ohio on June 12, 1994, and had a second ceremony at San Ysidro Ranch in California. He lived in Indian Hill, Ohio.
Armstrong guarded the use of his name, image, and famous quote. When it was launched in 1981, MTV wanted to use his quote in its station identification, with the American flag replaced with the MTV logo, but he refused the use of his voice and likeness. He sued Hallmark Cards in 1994 when they used his name, and a recording of the "one small step" quote, in a Christmas ornament without his permission. The lawsuit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, which Armstrong donated to Purdue. In May 2005, Armstrong became involved in a legal dispute with his barber of 20 years, Mark Sizemore. After cutting Armstrong's hair, Sizemore sold some of it to a collector for $3,000 without Armstrong's knowledge. Armstrong threatened legal action against Sizemore unless he returned the hair or donated the proceeds to a charity of Armstrong's choosing. Sizemore, unable to retrieve the hair, donated the proceeds to chari