On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first human being to set foot on the Moon. He was the commander of the Apollo 11 lunar module, and was accompanied by Edwin E. Aldrin. His first words after stepping on the moon were, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” This event was televised to Earth and seen by millions!
Armstrong was born in Ohio in 1930. Armstrong was a Navy pilot from 1949 to 1952. He flew fighter planes in the Korean War. After the war, he left the Navy and got a college degree in aeronautical engineering. In 1955, he became a test pilot for high-performance aircraft. In 1962, he was selected by NASA to become an astronaut.
His first space flight in 1966 was nearly a disaster. He was in the first U. S. emergency in space with his partner David Scott, during their Gemini 8 mission. Their spacecraft spun wildly out of control when one of their thruster rockets malfunctioned. They got the spacecraft under control again, but had to return to Earth after only seven orbits because they had used up most of their fuel.
In 1968, he was chosen, along with Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins, to be a member of the Apollo 11 mission,. It would be the first in history to attempt a manned landing on the Moon. Apollo 11 left Cape Canaveral, Florida on July 16, 1969, boosted by the giant Saturn V rocket. Four days later, it went into orbit around the Moon. The lunar module Eagle, with Armstrong and Aldrin inside, separated from the command module and descended to the surface of the Moon. Their target was a flat area called the Sea of Tranquility.
There were large boulders in the landing area, and pilot Armstrong had to use up most of the lunar module’s fuel to get into position to make a safe landing. After touching down, Armstrong reported their success with the words: “Tranquility Base here…the Eagle has landed.” Several hours later, at 10:56 PM, Eastern Standard Time, Armstrong became the first man ever to walk on the surface of the Moon. Aldrin followed him about fifteen minutes later.
The two astronauts set up an American flag, collected rock samples, and set up several scientific experiments and instruments on the lunar surface. They stayed out for about two and a half hours. The next day, they left the Moon and rejoined Collins in the command module. The three astronauts returned home on July 24 and were hailed as heroes.
After going to the Moon, Neil Armstrong resigned from the astronaut program in 1970. From 1971 to 1979 he served as an engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati. In 1980 he became chairman of Cardwell International, a supplier of oil-drilling equipment. In 1986 Armstrong became cochairman of the presidential commission investigating the explosion of space shuttle Challenger.