Happy Birthday Neil Armstrong
Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, near Wapakoneta, Ohio.
The oldest of three children, Armstrong took an early interest in aviation when he took his first plane ride at the age of six. By age 14 he was taking flying lessons and by 16 he had a pilots license. Armstrong also had a neighbor with a telescope, which fueled his interest in space.
In 1947, Armstrong enrolled in Purdue University in Indiana on a U.S. Navy scholarship. However, after just two years there he was called away to active duty. The youngest pilot in his squadron, Armstrong went on to fly 78 combat missions during the Korean War. He then returned to Purdue and completed his degree in aeronautical engineering.
After graduation, Armstrong worked with the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in Cleveland, Ohio. He then went to the NACA High Speed Flight Station in California where he became a test pilot, flying early models of the F-100, B-47, and X-15, among others.
In 1962, Armstrong was one of two civilians selected by NASA to join the astronaut program. Then in March 1966, he flew his first mission, Gemini 8, the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit. In spite of a critical system failure that set his ship out of control, Armstrong was able to correct the issue and safely return the craft to earth.
Armstrong’s calm handling of this situation made him a frontrunner for considerations for the Apollo 11 mission three years later. He served as commander during that mission, which made him a household name. On July 20, Neil Armstrong entered the history books when he became the first man to step on the moon. You can read more about the moon landing here.
After the moon landing, Armstrong worked in NASA’s Office of Advanced Research and Technology. He also taught aerospace engineering for seven years. Armstrong went on to submit proposals for future space operations and investigate the Challenger explosion in 1986.
Armstrong continued to promote space exploration in his final years, speaking out against President Obama’s decision to cancel the Constellation program in 2010. Armstrong died on August 25, 2012.
After his passing, Buzz Aldrin stated, “I know I am joined by millions of others in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a landmark moment in human history.”
Click here to browse our space stamps, including several more that honor Apollo 11.