“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong
Known for being the first man to land on the moon, Neil Armstrong was born in Ohio on August 5, 1930. At an early age he developed a fascination with flight and obtained his pilot’s license at age fifteen, before he even had his driver’s license!
Following his schooling at Purdue University, he applied for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA, now NASA.) As a research pilot, he tested numerous high-speed aircraft, including the X-15, which could reach a top speed of 4,000 miles per hour. Overall, he flew about 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders, over the course of his military and civilian careers.
In 1962, Armstrong became the first American civilian to travel in space. He was the commander of Gemini 8 which launched March 16, 1966. He flew on that mission with David Scott. They were the first astronauts to dock, or connect, two vehicles in space.
Neil Armstrong’s second flight was Apollo 11 in 1969 for which he was the mission commander; he flew with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. As an astronaut commander, he made about $17,000 a year (about $116,000 today.) Going into space, he knew it was a real possibility that he would not be returning to Earth and his family. A month before entering space the crew was quarantined, and during those weeks the three signed hundreds of postcards as a sort of life insurance policy. They signed the cards and gave them to a friend. On the day of the launch and the day the astronauts landed on the moon, the friend took them to the post office and had them postmarked, and then distributed them to the astronauts’ families. If the astronauts did not return from the moon, their families were to sell the covers in order to fund day to day living expenses as well as college educations and other life needs. Today, an Apollo 11 life insurance autograph ‘cover’ can cost as much as $30,000.
Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon in a lander named “Eagle,” while Collins circled the moon in the Apollo capsule. When Armstrong took the first step on the moon, he said, “That’s one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind.” (A syllable was lost in transmission because of the microphone. In September 2006, voice recognition software found the missing “a” in his famous moon-landing quote.)
Armstrong and Aldrin spent more than two hours outside their spacecraft on the moon, studying the surface, collecting rocks, and taking pictures. They then docked with Collins in orbit around the moon before all three flew back to Earth.
Neil Armstrong retired from NASA after Apollo 11. In 1971, Armstrong became a college professor. He taught until 1979 and then became a businessman. He stayed active in groups that studied space and aeronautics. He rarely granted interviews and generally refused to give autographs (fearing they would be sold.) At the time of his death at age 82 in 2012, Neil Armstrong was worth 3 million dollars.