On July 21st, at 2:56am (UTC), Neil Armstrong stepped off the ladder of the Apollo 11 landing module, and into history. At approximately 2:45pm (EST) Armstrong passed away due to complications of heart bypass surgery at the age of 82.
Armstrong was born on August 5th, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and joined the United States Navy in January 1949. After serving as a Naval Aviator in Korea, he graduated from Purdue University in 1955. Following hs graduation, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics at Edwards Air Force Base where he served as both a chase pilot and experimental aircraft pilot, flying both the Bell Aircraft X-1B (A variant of the plane used by Chuck Yeager in the first manned supersonic flight) and the X-15 rocket-powered experimental aircraft.
In September 1962, Armstrong was asked to join NASA’s Astronaut Corps. His first journey into space with NASA was as the Commander of the Gemini 8 mission, and although mechanical failures would cut the mission short, he achieved the main objective, and performed the first docking of two vehicles in space. He was named the backup Commander for Gemini 8, and served at CAPCOM for the mission. On April 5th 1967 Armstrong, along with 17 other Astronauts met with Apollo Mission Coordinator Deke Slayton, who remarked “The men who will fly the Lunar missions are in this room.”
Armstrong was named Mission Commander for Apollo 11 in December 1968 and, after months of preparation, boarded the Saturn V rocket that would carry them to the moon on July 16th. After nearly 104 hours, the landing moduleEagletouched down on the surface of the moon. Four and a half hours later, Neil Armstrong went where no man had gone before, setting foot on the surface of a world beyond our own.
The scientific data gained from the mission was remarkable, but even more importantly that that was what the mission represented. It was a fulfillment of President John Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon before then end of the decade “not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” They proved that, if enough people believed in an idea, then there was no force great enough to stop them from achieving that idea.
President Barack Obama described the magnitude of Armstrong’s actions, saying: “Neil’s spirit of discovery lives on in all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploring the unknown.”
So today, let us remember, and more importantly, let us not forget the legacy of the man who, in the words of President Obama, taught us the enormous power of one small step.