To the Moon...

with
Neil A. Armstrong

Born August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio
BS in Aeronautical Engineering, Purdue University
MS in Aerospace Engineering, University of Southern California
Served in the Navy during the Korean War

About the Man

Thirty-three years before Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot upon the Moon's surface, he went up in the air for his first airplane ride. He was only six years old.

After that first ride, Neil Armstrong spent most of his leisure time reading about aviation, and building model airplanes. On his sixteenth birthday, he earned his pilot's license, after only two years of flying lessons.

After receiving a degree from Purdue University, Neil Armstrong went on to become a civilian test pilot for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, an organization that later became known as NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Neil Armstrong continued as a research pilot for NASA, first at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in Cleveland, then for the High Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base. He participated in test flights of supersonic planes, including the X-15 rocket plane. At the time, the X-15 was a high altitude plane that flew at speeds exceeding those of the contemporary aircraft.

By the time NASA chose Neil Armstrong as one of the second group of astronauts, he had a total of twenty-six hundred hours of flying time in all types of planes to his credit. He was 5'11" tall and had turned thirty-two only one month earlier.

One of the vehicles Neil Armstrong 'flew' was called the The 'Flying Bedstead'

This 1964 photo shows the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV), affectionately dubbed the "flying bedstead" in flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California. NASA used the LLRV to simulate the Apollo lunar landings. Neil Armstrong had a close call in one of these machines in 1968, ejecting safely just seconds before a crash.

About the Spaceflights

Gemini 8


Mar. 16, 1966

The primary goal of Gemini 8 was to rendezvous and dock with a Gemini Agena vehicle. In addition, the astronauts were to conduct extravehicular procedures. The mission's secondary objectives included performing docked-vehicle maneuvers and evaluating systems. The astronauts planned to conduct ten different experiments.

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and David R. Scott performed the first docking in space. However, thirty minutes after the successful docking, both vehicles began to rotate wildly due to a thruster's malfunction. The astronauts managed to unlock their Gemini spacecraft and gain control. The astronauts brought the craft down safely in an emergency splashdown.

Gemini 8 did not meet the mission's secondary goals due to problems with the docked vehicles, and because of the shortened mission. However, the Gemini 8 astronauts performed the first successful docking in space, a procedure necessary for a lunar landing mission.

Flight Duration: Ten hours, Forty-one Minutes, and Twenty-six Seconds

Apollo 11
July 16-24, 1969

(Six different views of Apollo 11 liftoff]

    Apollo 11 liftoff    

On July 16, 1969, a Saturn V rocket boosted the Apollo 11 spacecraft into orbit. The launch rocket's third stage restarted, propelling the Apollo spacecraft into its lunar course.

The Apollo 11 crew headed for the far side of the moon. When nearing the moon's vicinity, the spacecraft maneuvered into position for a lunar orbit. The astronauts fired a rocket in the Service Module, SM, to bring the craft into a circular orbit one hundred miles above the moon. Then, Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin entered the Lunar Excursion Module, LEM, and detached from the Command Module, CM, nicknamed Columbia. Astronaut Collins remained in the CM in lunar orbit.

The astronauts in the LEM, nicknamed Eagle, fired a rocket to decrease the speed of their descent. They hovered above the lunar surface by using a stabilizing device. Nevertheless, there were a few tense moments before Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon's surface. The LEM was to have landed in a spot that strewn with large rocks. Armstrong had to take over the controls and find another landing site. With less than thirty seconds of fuel remaining for its descent, the Eagle set down on the moon's surface, in the Sea of Tranquility. Back in Houston, they heard Neil Armstrong say, ""Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

On July 20, 1969, Astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin became the first people to ever set foot on the moon's surface. Neil Armstrong climbed down Eagle's ladder, and as he stepped down on the lunar soil, he uttered the immortal words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

While spending two hours, thirty-one minutes on the moon's surface, Armstrong and Aldrin performed a number of experiments. Those experiments included:

  • Soil Mechanics Investigation
  • Solar Wind Composition Experiment
  • Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package
  • Passive Seismic Experiment
  • Laser Ranging Retro-reflector
  • Lunar Dust Detector

To find out about these experiments in more detail, visit Exploring the Moon: Apollo 11 Mission

The Apollo 11 astronauts also deployed the American Flag on the moon and unveiled the plaque on the LEM's descent stage that contained the inscription: "Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind."

Armstrong and Aldrin stayed on the moon for over 21 hours. They spent fifty-nine and one-half hours in lunar orbit, circling the moon thirty times. They collected forty-five pounds of lunar rocks and soil samples.

When their work on the lunar surface was completed, the LEM blasted off the surface of the moon and sent Armstrong and Aldrin into orbit to rendezvous with the Collins in the CM. The astronauts then released the LEM. A rocket fired to boost Apollo 11 out of lunar orbit. To reenter the earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft had to follow a definite course. If the craft came in too low, it would burn up in the atmosphere. If it came in too high, it would literally bounce off the earth's atmosphere and thrown back out into space.

The Apollo 11 astronauts splashed down on July 24, 1969, at 12:50 PM ET

Flight Duration: Eight days, eighteen hours, and thirty-five minutes

Click on the patches to read about Neil Armstrong's historic spaceflights
in more detail at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Website

   




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Go on to read about:

NASA's Third Group of Astronauts
Another Group is Needed

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