This is biography month, and this is a very famous American. Do you recognize him?
This is Neil Armstrong at age 6. He has already had his first airplane flight, and he’s fascinated with all things air-borne. By 15 he was walking or biking to an airport near Wapakoneta, Ohio for flight lessons. Would you believe he got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license? The second picture shows Neil’s senior picture and signature. In high school he built a wind tunnel in his basement so he could fly model airplanes. Can you imagine? After graduation in 1947, he was off to Purdue to get a degree in aeronautical engineering.
Time flew, at least for Neil! In the first picture, he was a Navy pilot who flew 72 missions during the Korean War. In the second, he was a test pilot who tried out 200 different planes. It must have been a dream come true!
For Neil, his dreams grew even bigger. In 1962 he was picked to be one of the New Nine, NASA’s second group of astronauts. In 1966 he lifted off in Gemini 8 with David Scott. The first 11 hours were perfect. They successfully docked with a satellite, but then, it began to spin. Not good! Neil undocked. But the capsule still spun! Neil had 30 seconds to react before facing black-out, a death sentence in space. Neil and David remained calm. They got the ship under control. It was NASA’s first in-space critical failure, but Neil and David saved the day, and their own lives.
The Gemini docking was a prep for extracting the lunar landing. Maybe the experience helped Neil later. He and Buzz Aldrin were picked for Apollo 11, the first mission to the moon. They landed the Eagle, the lunar module, on July 20th, 1969. They had 30 seconds of fuel left. Wow! Good timing, guys!
At 10:56 PM that night Neil climbed down the ladder and put his foot on the moon. Can you imagine how he felt? He had the perfect thing to say! When you’re in the hot seat to say something important, plan ahead like Neil did. He tried out his line on his brother months before the launch. It worked!
Neil and Buzz spent about 21hours and 36 minutes on the moon. Not even a whole day! They took pictures and video. They collected rocks and dirt. They left behind footprints, an American flag, some science equipment, and a memorial bag. They’re still there, along with the lunar landing vehicle. Its plaque says: HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969 A.D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND
On July 21st at 1:54PM the two astronauts left the moon behind, never to return. I wonder if they knew.
The next picture is Neil in 2008, almost 40 years after the moon landing. He spent the rest of his life as a private citizen, out of the spotlight. He taught aerospace engineering in Cincinnati. He was chairman of an aviation company. Can you imagine working with Neil, or better yet, having him as your teacher?
In August of 2012 Neil died at age 82. If you want to remember him, go out on a clear night when the moon’s smiling down on you. Think of Neil and give him a wink.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!