13 September 2008

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, born in 1930, one of the first civilian United States astronauts and the first human to set foot on the moon. Armstrong was the commander of the first Apollo program mission to land on the moon—Apollo 11—in July 1969. He also flew aboard a Gemini program mission in 1966 and has been a U.S. Navy combat pilot, test pilot, professor, businessman, and presidential adviser. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous international awards for his service on Apollo 11.

Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio. When he was 16 years old he began flying as a student pilot. He earned a navy scholarship and began attending Purdue University in 1947. In 1950 Armstrong began active duty with the navy for the Korean War. He flew fighter planes in Korea until 1952, when he returned to Purdue. Armstrong earned his B.S. degree in aeronautical
engineering in 1955.

Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at the Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1955, then transferred later that same year to the NACA
Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was a test pilot for many of the high-performance aircraft used to experiment with ideas for spacecraft. Armstrong left the Flight Research Center in 1962 to join the second group of U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut trainees.

This second group of trainees included the first two civilian astronaut candidates,
Armstrong and test pilot Elliot See. (See unfortunately died in a plane crash while training to be commander of Gemini 9.) After completing initial training at NASA, Armstrong served as a backup to the Gemini 5 crew, then became the command pilot of Gemini 8; David R. Scott also flew aboard Gemini 8. The mission launched March 16, 1966, with the primary objective of docking with another spacecraft. Gemini 8 rendezvoused with a used segment of a launch vehicle called an Agena booster 298 km (185 mi) above the earth, and Armstrong successfully docked the two craft together 6 hours and 34 minutes into the mission. Roughly 30 minutes later, the paired spacecraft began to rotate unexpectedly and without any command from the astronauts. The rotation eventually reached about 60 revolutions per minute. The astronauts and the ground crew reacted rapidly and diagnosed a short circuit in the thruster rocket that controlled Gemini 8’s orientation. Armstrong and Scott had to use roughly 75 percent of Gemini 8's fuel to stabilize the craft, forcing the mission to end early with an emergency reentry during the seventh orbit.