“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong, July 20th, 1969
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of men first walking on the moon. The Apollo 11 spaceflight was launched from Florida on July 16th, 1969, and the first man to set foot on the moon was Neil Armstrong, from Wapakoneta – about an hour north of Dayton.
As a child, Neil fell in love with flying after his father took him to the Cleveland Air Races. His love for flying grew even more after Neil flew for the first time in a Ford Trimotor around age 6. After moving sixteen times in the first fourteen years of his life, the Armstrong family finally settled in Wapakoneta, where Neil took flying lessons and earned a student flight certificate on his 16th birthday even completing solo flights before he even had his driver’s license. After high school, Neil was accepted into MIT but decided to attend Purdue University after watching Purdue defeat the Buckeyes in a football game.
Neil briefly left Purdue to serve in the Navy, where he became a fully qualified aviator. After serving, Neil returned to Purdue where he graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in January 1955. After his graduation, Neil became an experimental research test pilot. Through his work as a test pilot, Neil was asked several times to be a part of various space missions which never came to fruition. In September of 1962, Neil was asked to join NASA and after Neil served as backup commander for Apollo 8, he was offered the post of commander of the Apollo 11 mission.
The Apollo 11 mission was commanded by Neil Armstrong, with Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin, and command module pilot Michael Collins. Collins flew the command module in orbit around the moon as Neil and Buzz Aldrin became the first two people to step foot on the moon on July 20th, 1969. Neil and Buzz spent 21 hours and 31 minutes on the moon’s surface.
The Armstrong Air and Space Museum is located in Wapakoneta, and is iconic with its moon shape.
Photo Credit: Ina Kratzsch