Neil Armstrong

by Graham from Fredericksburg

Neil Armstrong (Wikipedia)
Neil Armstrong (Wikipedia)

Most people think of a hero as people with super powers, and then they think of the everyday heroes, who have in some way earned an award and are well-known. Neil Armstrong is not known for awards that he might have earned as a naval aviator, but is known by all for his walk on the moon and what he accomplished with NASA.

Neil Armstrong was born August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. For the next 15 years his family moved from one place to another. Armstrong was involved in Boy Scouts eventually earning the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank that can be earned. In 1947 he attended Purdue University. Armstrong was the second person in his family to go to college. While he was attending Purdue he studied aerospace engineering. Though he was accepted at MIT, the only engineer he knew there persuaded him to not travel across the country to get a good education. To pay for college he committed himself to three years of service in the US Navy, bringing him into a career with aviation.

After his first four years in college he was called to the navy. He still had two years of education to complete his degree. In the time he spent training with the Navy, he became qualified to land on aircraft carriers. When he turned 20 in 1950, he became a fully qualified naval aviator. His first deployment was to Korea in 1951. During this deployment, while on escort duty his plane was fired upon and he was forced to eject. He was able to safely guide the plane he was escorting back to an air base first.

Neil Armstrong test pilot (Wikipedia)
Neil Armstrong test pilot (Wikipedia)

When his commitment to the navy was complete and he had finished college he took a job as a test pilot. In the beginning he flew chase planes for the experimental planes. Then he transferred to Lewis Flight Propulsion in Ohio. His first assignment was to launch a missile off the bottom of a converted bomber. One of the engines was damaged and caused two of the other three not to work properly during the decent that had to be made from thirty thousand feet.

Armstrong was selected to become an astronaut in 1957 by the US Air Force’s first man in space program, launched by John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was determined to beat the Russians into space. While the US failed to beat the Russians into space, they did manage to beat them to the moon. Neil Armstrong was the first astronaut to set foot on the moon. The first space shuttle that Armstrong was on was Gemini 8. This was before the Apollo program. This program involved the docking of a vehicle with an unmanned target vehicle that was orbiting the earth. After a partially successful mission with Gemini 8, Armstrong moved on to Gemini 11. The Gemini 11 launch was announced two days after the recovery of Gemini 8. Armstrong would act as a backup pilot and was more of a teacher for the rookie back up William Anders.

With the end of the Gemini Program, Neil Armstrong, along with Dick Gordon and Gordon Cooper, were selected for the Apollo program and were the first three men on the the moon. Armstrong was originally scheduled to fly as a backup person on the Apollo 9 flight, but due to delays, Apollo 8’s crew switched with Apollo 9. With the switch and crew rotation Armstrong would be in command of Apollo 11 which would land on the moon! The pilot of Apollo 11 was Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin was thought to be the first to walk on the moon, but due to damage on the Lunar Lander he would have to have climbed over Armstrong.

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the moon. These were the first words spoken as the astronauts exited the Lander and transmitted their walk back to NASA. This would set a record that the rest of the world would look up to forever. The Americans had been the first to land on the moon and to walk on it.

Neil Armstrong is a hero to me, because of the example that he set for the world. For some people accomplishing something important and being recognized for that accomplishment becomes who they are. They let the fame go to their heads and they let money guide their actions. Armstrong worked for the Gemini programs and the Apollo programs because it was something he wanted to do. Today, Armstrong has stopped signing autographs because he discovered that they were being sold and that people were using his name to attract business and earn profit. On more than one occasion he has sued someone because they have used his famous quote from the moon for money making schemes. At one time Armstrong sent personal letters to new Eagle Scouts, a point that I hope to someday reach. He has stopped sending these letters, because he believes that the letters should come from someone that knew the scout personally. This is another reason that Armstrong is a hero to me he does not like to have his name used on things for profit, or for attention.

Armstrong’s accomplishment still to this day is thought by some to be a large government hoax. Many individuals believe that people never went to the moon or to space. I think Neil Armstrong opened doors to a world beyond what we know and that we have only touched the surface of what space exploration holds for the future. Neil Armstrong will forever be the first man on the moon in the history books, but he will also be a true hero in my book for a long time.

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