Neil Armstrong, a United States astronaut, went down in history as the first man to walk on the moon. Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 on a farm on the outskirts of Wapakoneta, Ohio. He obtained a pilot’s license when he was just 16. In 1947 he began studying aeronautic engineering. In 1950 the United States took part in the Korean War. Armstrong was enlisted as a pilot. His plane was hit repeatedly during different missions, and Armstrong was forced more than once to make emergency landings, demonstrating nerves of steel. After graduating from university he became a test pilot for experimental planes. In 1962 he entered into training for NASA, the American space agency. Armstrong’s first mission into space was to command the capsule Gemini 8, launched on March 16, 1966. Gemini 8 was the first spaceship to complete a docking operation, successfully attaching to the Agena satellite.
In 1969 he faced his second and most important mission: Apollo 11. Together with Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins, Armstrong was part of the first crew to attempt to land on the moon. On July 16, 1969 the Apollo blasted off from Cape Kennedy, in Florida.
After four days, the space module Eagle, with Armstrong and Aldrin on board, detached from the command module piloted by Collins and descended towards the moon’s surface. On July 21, 1969, at 02:56 Greenwich Mean Time, Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. After touching the lunar surface, Armstrong spoke the famous phrase: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. The astronauts planted an American flag on the lunar surface along with a plaque engraved with an image of the Earth. The plaque reads: “We came in peace for all humanity”. The moon landing was witnessed by millions of people on the radio and television. Some people claim the moon landing never took place, saying the images were filmed in a studio, and that NASA planned the operation at the height of the Cold War in order to assert its supremacy over the Soviet Union.
NASA has always maintained that the Apollo 11 landing was real, and that it was not the only one. After Armstrong’s 1969 moonwalk, lunar exploration intensified. Over the course of the Apollo program, 6 manned expeditions are said to have landed on the moon, with 12 American astronauts setting foot on its surface. After the Apollo program was closed in 1972, no human being has ever returned to the moon. Apollo 11 was Neil Armstrong’s last space mission. He subsequently worked in NASA’s administration for an additional two years. Following that, he taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati until 1979. In 1986 he took part in the investigation into the Challenger shuttle disaster, after the spaceship exploded during takeoff.
In recent years he has retired to his farm in Lebanon, Ohio.