The best stuff about Neil Armstrong doesn't seem to get much press. The reason he was selected to land the LEM was he was the best pilot in the stationary simulator down at Houston (hilariously electro-mechanical/analog) and with the LEM Simulator, which was basically a flying bedstand. No wings or lift surfaces, just a giant jet engine that pointed straight down. You kept it upright by using the same retrorocket controls that the LEM had. The jet engine was keyed to generate exactly enough thrust to offset 5/6 of earth's gravity, in other words, simulating lunar gravity. Apparently, Armstrong was the only one who could fly it.

On their final approach to Tranquility Base, the autopilot began freaking out. Compensating for the difference beteween the altitude reading from the radar altimeter and the telemetery from Houston, the computer freaked out (it only had 2K of memory). Working with the coders on the ground, Buzz Aldrin patched the autopilot program and got the AP back online. Only now they were running out of fuel. And the LEM was headed for a collision with a massive boulder that hadn't shown up on the survellance photos.

Armstrong looked out through the rangefinder and picked out a good landing site. He and Aldrin did some fast math on their pocket slide rules (no calculators). Then he flipped off the computer and landed the bird by feel. They travel 300,000km from the Earth, with every millimeter of the trip planned out by the most powerful computers available, and then Armstrong lands it by the seat of his pants. To me, their teamwork and fast thinking are more impressive than being the first guy out the door.

Actually, Neil Armstrong's first words weren't the ones he intended. His historic first words on the moon were supposed to be:

"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind".
What he actually said was:
That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Notice the "a" between "for" and "man". Without it, the sentence means basically:

"That's one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind".

Now there is some static on the tapes of the transmission, but there is little doubt of what was said. The blunder was a small and completely understandable one as the pressure must have been immense, but what is shocking is that it has gone unnoticed. Most newspapers at the time printed the exact quote, as do many current encyclopedias. Some current encyclopedias go so far as to give a "corrected" quote, one with the "a" inserted. One of those is Encyclopedia Britannica.

Source: "Big Secrets" by William Poundstone.


Neil Alden Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born on August 5th, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. His parents were Stephen Armstrong, an auditor for the state of Ohio, and Viola Armstrong. Neil Armstrong became interested in airplanes when he was as young as two and began taking flying lessons at the age of fifteen. He received his student pilot's license when he was sixteen and graduated from Blume High School in 1947.

Naval Aviator

Upon graduation, Armstrong received a scholarship from the U.S. Navy, which he used to study aeronautical engineering at Purdue University. He was called to active duty by the Navy in 1949, and was sent to Korea in 1950, where he flew 78 combat missions from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. After the war, Armstrong returned to Purdue, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1955.

Test Pilot

Armstrong then joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA, as a research pilot. In this role he worked at Lewis Laboratory (now NASA Glenn Research Center) in Cleveland, and at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He flew over 200 models of aircraft, including the 4000-mile-per-hour X-15, and was also involved in aircraft design and engineering. During the same period, he studied at the University of Southern California, and received a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering.


In 1962, Armstrong became one of nine pilots included in NASA's second batch of astronauts. He trained for four years at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston before flying on the Gemini VIII mission with David Scott on March 16th and 17th, 1966. As part of this mission, Armstrong successfully docked the Gemini spacecraft with an Agena spacecraft already in orbit, the first docking of two vessels in space. After docking, problems developed due to an electrical short in the spacecraft control system, and Armstrong undocked and used reentry rockets to regain control of the Gemini. The astronauts then made the first emergency landing of a spacecraft, in the Pacific Ocean.


In 1969, Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 mission, which featured the first piloted lunar landing. The mission began with the launch of Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin into orbit on July 16th, 1969. A few days later, Armstrong landed the Lunar Module, containing Aldrin and himself, on the moon, and at 10:56 pm EDT on July 20th, he stepped out of the module onto the surface of the moon. At this point he made his famous (and botched) statement, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Aldrin also came out of the Module, and the men spent about two-and-a-half hours on the surface of the moon. During this time, they conducted experiments, took photographs and video footage, collected 44 pounds of samples, and left a plaque on the surface of the moon. On July 24th, the three men and their capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean.


Soon after returning to Earth, the Apollo 11 astronauts took part in a ticker-tape parade in New York City. In the following years, Armstrong was honored with numerous medals and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, medals from 17 foreign countries, and several honorary doctorate degrees from universities.


Armstrong later held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1971 Armstrong resigned from NASA and became a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati, a position he held until 1979. Over the years, he has served in several administrative and advisory positions, both in corporations and in the U.S. government, including as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps from 1971 to 1973, Chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc. from 1982 to 1992, a member of the National Commission on Space in 1985 and 1986, and Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident in 1986. More recently Armstrong was active on the boards of directors of aerospace corporations, including AIL Systems, EDO Corporation, and RTI Metals. He lived on his farm in Lebanon, Ohio until his death on August 25, 2012.


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