As a Baby Boomer, I have lots of heroes. They include the likes of Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali, President John F. Kennedy, astronaut John Glenn and first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong.
Neil Armstrong is maybe one of the most unlikely heroes because of his shy, no-ego type of personality. He is also the most likely hero for many of us because his feat of becoming the first human to step foot on the moon is very difficult to imagine.
Bookmark Neil Armstrong’s Wikipedia site at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Armstrong
I was stunned to learn of the death of this lunar explorer on Saturday, Aug. 25. Armstrong was 82 and died of complications from heart surgery performed earlier in the month. His memorial service was limited to family and was Friday, Aug. 31 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Just two columns ago, I wrote about the advances in space exploration including the accomplishments of Curiosity, the roving vehicle that landed on Mars. Maybe, we won’t see it in our lifetimes but it is very possible that an American could be the first person to set foot onto Mars.
I have mentioned in this Clicking on the Web many times that I have always been a follower of space exploration. I can vividly remember when the Soviet Union launched the first man into space on April 12, 1961. That man was Yuri Gagarin. The U.S. followed suit months later, sending Alan Shepard into space. John Glenn became the first American to orbit in space.
It has been well documented that President Kennedy made the commitment to place the first man on the moon. On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. Find the full text and audio versions of Kennedy’s May 25, 1961 speech by going to http://tinyurl.com/42lhxfr
Kennedy’s decision involved much consideration before making it public, as well as enormous human efforts and expenditures to make what became Project Apollo a reality by 1969. Only the construction of the Panama Canal in modern peacetime and the Manhattan Project in war were comparable in scope. NASA’s overall human spaceflight efforts were guided by Kennedy’s speech; Projects Mercury (at least in its latter stages), Gemini, and Apollo were designed to execute Kennedy’s goal. His goal was achieved on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Module’s ladder and onto the Moon’s surface.
Many of us Baby Boomers remember where we were on July 20, 1969. Judy and I had been married two years and were visiting my brother Dave and wife Rosemary at their residence in Austin, MN. I remember watching Walter Cronkite and waiting patiently to see the first TV images of Armstrong as he climbed down the LEM and set foot on the moon. It occurred at about 10 p.m. CDT
Armstrong’s first words after that historic step are maybe remembered as clearly as many of us remember the first words of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
As we were riveted to the television, we heard Armstrong’s voice: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” While traversing on Armstrong’s Wikipedia website, find an audio clip of that historic revelation.
Just moments before stepping onto the moon, Armstrong spoke to Mission Control and the world from the lunar surface saying, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
Go to nasa.gov at http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/about/bios/neilabio.html and find Armstrong’s biography. Let’s read part of this American hero’s biography:
Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. He began his NASA career in Ohio.
After serving as a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1955. His first assignment was with the NACA Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn) in Cleveland. Over the next 17 years, he was an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator for NACA and its successor agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
As a research pilot at NASA’s Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., he was a project pilot on many pioneering high speed aircraft, including the well known, 4000-mph X-15. He has flown over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.
Armstrong transferred to astronaut status in 1962. He was assigned as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission. Gemini 8 was launched on March 16, 1966, and Armstrong performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.
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.
Armstrong subsequently held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In this position, he was responsible for the coordination and management of overall NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics.
He was Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati between 1971-1979. During the years 1982-1992, Armstrong was chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., Charlottesville, Va.
He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California. He holds honorary doctorates from a number of universities.
Armstrong was decorated by 17 countries. He was the recipient of many special honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Congressional Gold Medal; the Congressional Space Medal of Honor; the Explorers Club Medal; the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy; the NASA Distinguished Service Medal; the Harmon International Aviation Trophy; the Royal Geographic Society’s Gold Medal; the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Gold Space Medal; the American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award; the Robert J. Collier Trophy; the AIAA Astronautics Award; the Octave Chanute Award; and the John J. Montgomery Award.