On the Saturday 25th August, 2012, one of the greatest explorers of modern history tragically passed away. Neil Armstrong.
Known worldwide as the first person to set foot upon an alien world, little general knowledge exists about his early, pre-Apollo life, becoming famous only after his famous moon walk, a fame he hated and publicly shied, becoming a recluse in his later years. However, before all of this he was an accomplished boy scout, a US Navy pilot, a US Air Force test pilot and, for a short period, a university professor.
Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was a United States Navy officer and served in the Korean War aboard the USS Essex as an armed recon pilot where, on one sortie, his plane was severely damaged by enemy ground fire, causing him to lose 3ft of his planes right wing. However, against all the odds, Armstrong managed to limp home in his damaged craft and eject into friendly territory.. After the war Armstrong returned to university graduating from Purdue University with a BSc and completed graduate studies at the University of Southern California, gaining his MSci in aerospace engineering. After graduating he served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station, based at Edwards air force base. Here Armstrong flew several famous craft, including the Bell X-1B and the North American X-15, showing massive potential in both engineering and as a pilot.
Armstrong’s first step towards becoming an astronaut occurred when he was selected for the US air forces Man in Space Soonest programme, a very imaginatively named enterprise to place a man in space before those pesky Russians. In November 1960, Armstrong was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar, a military space plane, and on March 15, 1962, he was named as one of six pilot-engineers who would fly the space plane when it got off the design board.
In the months after the announcement that applications were being sought for a second group of NASA astronauts, Armstrong became more and more excited about the prospects of both the Apollo program, and of investigating a new aeronautical environment. Armstrong’s astronaut application arrived about a week past the June 1, 1962, deadline. Luckily Dick Day, with whom Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards air force base, saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed.
On September 13th 1962, Armstrong got the call asking him if he wished to join NASA’s Astronaut corps as part of what was known as the ‘New line’. He jumped at the opportunity, and the rest they say, is history. Neil Armstrong went on to become one of the most famous NASA astronauts in history, becoming the world’s first civilian astronaut, performing the world’s first manned docking of two piloted spacecraft, and of course, being the first man to walk upon the moon.
By Alex Davis