When Neil Armstrong made his “small step” on to the moon on July 20, 1969, he did more than just fulfill President Kennedy’s promise to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s: He also launched the imaginations of tens of thousands of people worldwide — people who would become future astronauts, astronomers, scientists, engineers, pilots, and adventurers of every kind.
More than just the man who made the first “giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong also performed the first manned docking of spacecraft on Gemini 8, and served as a test pilot for planes ranging from the giant KC-135 Stratotanker to the Mach 6+ X-15 spaceplane.
After his history-making flight with fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins, the former naval aviator and Purdue University graduate would retire from the astronaut corps and go on to teach aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Though Armstrong had left NASA, in time, he would serve on the panel that investigated the Apollo 13 failure. He was later appointed by President Reagan to the Rogers Commission, which investigated the space shuttle Challenger disaster.
Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and died in Columbus on August 25, 2012, following complications from heart surgery earlier in the month. While the man himself is gone, the footprints he left on the moon — and his place in history — will live on forever. – AJW