Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remembering Neil Armstrong

Who, that was old enough to understand, does not remember exactly where they were the evening of July 20, 1969 when the first man set foot on the moon?  I was 19 years old and flying down I45 headed to Galveston Island.  My friend and I were listening to the radio waiting for the notice that it would be happening soon.  We pulled into a Holiday Inn and ran to the area where they had it on TV for everyone to see.  I still get thrilled remembering that grainy black and white picture on the television.

Neil Armstrong was a one of a kind.  His love for flight began when he was 6 years old and went on his first plane ride.  By the time he was 15 he had saved enough money working at a drug store to begin taking flying lessons.  His first lesson was in a small two-seater Aeronaco Champ.  At 16 he was already starting to be a test pilot, of sorts, earning flight hours by testing airplanes at the airport after the engines had been overhauled by the local mechanic.

Mr. Armstrong graduated from Purdue University and completed his graduate studies at the University of Southern California.  He joined the Navy as an officer and served in the Korean War.  Afterward he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station.

In 1962 he became a participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man In Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight program.  Later that year he joined the NASA Astronaut Corps, and his first flight was the Gemini 8 mission in 1966.  On this mission he performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft with pilot David Scott.

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong's second flight was the mission of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  He and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent 2 1/2 hours exploring, while Michael Collins remained in orbit in the Command Module.  It was on this mission that his famous words were spoken, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."  Armstrong had been instructed by NASA to say, "That's one small step for "a" man; one giant leap for mankind," but to this day the debate continues over if he said the word "a" or not.

Neil Armstrong, along with his crew mates Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Mr. Armstrong passed away on August 25, 2012 at the age of 82 and remains a bigger than life icon of the era being remembered for his courage and never-say-die attitude as a pilot and astronaut.

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