Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on another world, died Saturday at the age of 82.
Armstrong was a test pilot, engineer and professor, but is best known for commanding Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the Moon. Declaring it “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong left the Eagle lander and stepped onto the Lunar surface on July 21, 1969, at 02:56 UTC.
The moment was one of the high points of human history, and fulfilled the pledge of the late President John F. Kennedy, who had in 1961 pledged to land a mission on the Moon by the end of the decade.
Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, to Stephen and Viola Armstrong. The family moved often due to Stephen’s job as an auditor for the State of Ohio; Neil Armstrong lived in 20 different towns by the time he was 15 years old. Armstrong began taking flight lessons in Wapokanetta, Ohio, and earned his pilot’s license by the age of 15.
Armstrong was accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but instead attended Purdue University, where he studied Aerospace Engineering. Armstrong went to school for two years, then entered the U.S. Navy under a tuition repayment plan.
While in the Navy, Armstrong qualified as a Naval Aviator. He flew combat missions during the Korean War. Armstrong’s plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire in 1951, ultimately forcing him to eject after flying the crippled craft back to friendly territory.
Armstrong returned to Purdue after completing his service, where he met his first wife, Janet Shearon. After Armstrong graduated in 1955, the two married, then moved to California, where Armstrong served at Edwards Air Force Base.
The Armstrongs had three children: Eric, Karen, and Mark. In 1961, Karen developed a malignant tumor on her brain stem, ultimately leading to her death in 1962.
Image Credit: NASA
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