“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Those words will forever be a part of American history.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, passed away on August 25, 2012, due to complications following heart bypass surgery. The service for the 82 year old astronaut is scheduled to take place on Friday, August 31.
Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. His interest in airplanes started early. He earned his pilot’s license at age 16, then went on to study aeronautical engineering at Purdue University in Indiana and completed graduate studies at the University of Southern California. Purdue University honored Armstrong by naming a building the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering.
Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was a United States Navy officer and served in the Korean War. After the war, he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station, now known as the Dryden Flight Research Center, where he logged over 900 flights.
Armstrong was transferred to astronaut status in 1962. He was assigned as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission. While not as famous as the moon landing, Gemini 8 was the first successful docking of two vehicles in space, which put the United States ahead in the “space race”.
As spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, Armstrong gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the moon and first to step on its surface. The astronauts left an American flag on the moon, along with a plaque that read: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind,” making a mark on the moon and on history.
After this famous mission, Armstrong led a quieter life away from the spotlight. He held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics for NASA. In this position, he was responsible for the management of NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics. Armstrong also worked as Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati between 1971 and 1979. During the years 1982 to 1992, he was chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., Charlottesville, Va.
Neil Armstrong has received many awards and recognition for his achievements in life. Armstrong and his fellow astronauts from Apollo 11 were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon. Armstrong also received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009. President Barack Obama released a statement on Armstrong's death describing him as "among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time.”
Shortly after his death, his family released a statement: "For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."