Neil A. Armstrong
Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. His parents were Stephen and Viola Armstrong. Stephen Armstrong worked as an auditor for the state of Ohio. From a very young age, Neil Armstrong was interested in flying, taking his first flight at the age of six. He began taking flying lessons at the age of fifteen, receiving his pilot's license on his sixteenth birthday. Armstrong served as a pilot in the United States Navy from 1949 to 1952, before completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1955. During the Korean War, Armstrong flew seventy-eight combat missions. His military background as a pilot, as well as his education, prepared him to work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the predecessor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). While with NACA, Armstrong worked at the Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. After the creation of NASA in 1959, Armstrong continued to work for that agency. He contributed to NASA's flight research as a test pilot, flying a number of different aircraft including the high-speed X-15. He also earned a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California.
In 1962, Armstrong transferred into NASA's astronaut program. His first mission was Gemini 8, which launched on March 16, 1966. Armstrong was the commander of the Gemini 8 mission, and he receives the credit for being the first person to ever dock two spacecraft together while in orbit. Although Gemini 8 was an important mission, Armstrong is best known for being the commander of the Apollo 11 mission and being the first person to step on the Moon. Having set foot on the Moon, Armstrong is known for saying, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." He and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin brought back the first lunar samples to Earth, giving scientists much more information about the composition of the Moon and the history of the solar system.
Armstrong left the astronaut program after the Apollo 11 mission to become the Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics at NASA's headquarters in Washington, DC. He only held this position for a short time before resigning in 1971 to become a professor at the University of Cincinnati. At the university, Armstrong taught aeronautical engineering and performed research from 1971 until 1979.
In 1982, Armstrong became the chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., a company located in Charlottesville, Virginia. He remained chairman there until 1992. Armstrong later became the chairman of a company that produces electronic systems called AIL Systems, Inc., located in Deer Park, New York.
Since Apollo 11, Armstrong has received a number of important honors, both within the United States as well as internationally. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, as well as the Robert J. Collier Trophy. The following year, Armstrong was awarded the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, named after the man recognized by many as the father of American rocketry. Armstrong and his fellow astronauts, along with their wives, completed a world tour following Apollo 11. After that point, Armstrong attempted to stay out of the media spotlight, preferring to live a more quiet life. Although Armstrong had left NASA to teach at the University of Cincinnati, President Richard Nixon appointed him to serve as the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps from 1971 to 1973. In 1978, Armstrong received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor as well. In addition, he has received numerous other honors from around the world.
Because of his experience as both an engineer and an astronaut, Armstrong served as a member of the National Commission on Space from 1985 to 1986. President Ronald Reagan appointed Armstrong vice-chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident in 1986. Although Armstrong retired many years ago from the astronaut corps, his experience and expertise prepared him to serve in a number of important advisory roles over the years. He died on August 25, 2012 at the age of 82.