Neil Armstrong, an American Hero

Many people may know Neil Armstrong as the first man to walk on the moon, but in addition to that he was a hardworking student, a naval pilot, and a dad. He was a true model man. Neil Armstrong’s accomplishments and hard work in life led him to take one giant leap in to space. On August 5th, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Neil was born. (“NASA”) Neil’s mother, Viola Louise, and father, Stephen Koenig Armstrong, welcomed the arrival of their first child.

The Armstrong’s also have two younger children June, and Dean, Neil’s younger brother and sister. (“Putatunda, Rita”) In many ways Neil was a lot like his mother; he was calm, serious, and determined. His parents once said, “It was a pleasure to raise him.” Ever since Neil was young and learned to read, he loved books. In his first year at elementary school he read more than one hundred books.

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In high school Neil was never the top of his class, but he performed above average. During high school he always enjoyed math and science. He wanted to move on to college and learn more about planes and how they worked. Neil saw his first plane show when he was only two years old. As he got older his fascination with planes did not diminish. In fact, when he was six years old he rode in his first plane called the Tin Goose.

After the ride, Neil’s father confessed that he had been scared the whole time, but Neil enjoyed every minute of it. Neil also enjoyed making model airplanes and watching them fly out his window. Neil became fascinated by airplanes and decided that he wanted to one day learn to fly them. Neil was determined to fly. He took up a part-time job making doughnuts so that he could save enough to obtain a flying license.

All of his hard work paid off and by the time he was fifteen he had gotten his pilot license. He was able to fly, but still too young to drive. Neil received a scholarship to go to Purdue University on a naval scholarship. He wanted to become an aeronautics engineer to learn about flying and making planes. In return for the scholarship he had to serve in the Navy.

This was no problem for Neil because it meant he would get to fly planes. Neil started his college years when he was seventeen. In college he earned decent grades, but described his freshman year as “kind of a whirl.” Neil earned his Bachelor Degree in science with aeronautics from Purdue. After two years of college, he served his three years in the Navy. He was a Naval Aviator from 1949 to 1952.

When Neil started in the Navy he was stationed in Pensacola, Florida, where he learned to fly small, single–engine fighter planes. Neil graduated and earned his “wings” in 1950. He was a licensed Naval Aviator at only twenty. When Neil got his license he did not go back to college as scheduled because the Korean War had broken out. The Korean War lasted three years.

Neil was sent halfway across the globe. Once he arrived in Korea he was a pilot in Squadron 51. Neil was one of the youngest pilots aboard the USS Essex. This vessel took the pilots off the shore to fly their fighter planes over Korea to bomb it. Neil’s plane was designed to fly very low which caused all of his seventy- eight missions.

In September of 1952 Neil returned to college. He was now twenty two and more mature. He was ready to study harder than before. His last two years at Purdue his grades improved and he joined a fraternity. He also met the love of his life, Janet.

Janet was an eighteen-year-old student at Purdue. She and Neil married in 1956, several months after Neil’s graduation. After his marriage he decided that he wanted to become an experimental test pilot. Neil wanted to work in the Mojave Desert of California. He and Jan moved there so Neil could apply to become a pilot. Neil flew many planes like the X- 15.

Jan and Neil settled in the mountains near the desert to be close to Neil’s work. Soon, the Armstrongs decided that they wanted to have their own family. In 1959 Neil and Jan had their first child, Eric. Two years after the birth of Eric, the family had a daughter named Karen. Neil and his children were close.

In 1961 Karen fell and hit her head on the sidewalk. The injury left her with cross eyes, but no serious injuries. After the accident she started to trip and fall a lot. She also ran fever. The Armstrongs took her to the doctor and discovered she had a brain tumor and cancer. In January 1962 Karen died.

The next year they had their third child, Mark. In 1962, NASA needed more astronauts. Adventurous Neil decided to apply. He met all the requirements and also was very highly trained in the areas of test piloting and engineering. On September 17, 1962, Neil and nine others were selected to become astronauts.

When he was chosen he and his family decided to move to El Lagos, Texas, to be closer to the space center in Houston. To help prepare the courageous men for a journey to the Moon, all of the astronauts began their training with NASA. Neil spent many hours working. Jan said the Apollo mission, “consumed” her husband. As a result of his hard work, he went on his first space adventure in March 1969 as Command Pilot of the Gemini 8.

The launch and dock of the satellite was perfect, but the orbit was not. The Gemini 8 began to spin wildly end over end. The satellite had begun orbit, but the astronauts were still in danger. Neil steadied the controls and managed to bring Gemini 8 down into the Pacific. During all of his training he had many close calls. Once Neil had experience in space, he continued to work hard so that he could be a part of the Apollo 11 mission.

In January 1969 Neil was named commander of the Apollo 11 mission, along with Buzz Aldrin, and Michal Collins. On July 16, 1969, the members prepared for takeoff. This was the first mission ever designed to make it to the Moon. The astronauts had been training hard and were ready for launch. Once they were all in suit they head up to the Saturn Rocket. The rocket took them to their space capsule, Columbia.

The takeoff was successful. Millions of people waited to see if they would make it into space, and they did. From the time the mission started to the day they walked on the Moon four days passed. Then, on July 20, 1969, Neil and Buzz suited up to go to the Moon. The Eagle landed safely on the Moon and the men got out to explore this new world.

Since Neil was Commander he was to the first off. Neil’s famous words when he touched the ground were: “Now that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” They stayed and explored for two and a half hours. Neil and Buzz made it back on the Columbia safely and they were off back to home. One year after the Apollo 11 Mission, Neil Armstrong retired from NASA.

In 1971 Neil began to teach at the University of Cincinnati. After thirty-eight years of marriage Jan and Neil were divorced in 1994. Neil married a fellow lover of flying, Carol Knight, in 1994. Many trips have been made to the Moon since the Apollo 11 mission yet the first trip will always remain the most prominent. It was a giant feat for space exploration and for mankind.