(in honour of our greatest space pioneer)
The passing of Neil Armstrong in August 2012 served to highlight exactly how long ago man first landed on the moon. His one small step was taken over 40 years ago, in July 1969, relying on technology no more powerful than the smart phone sitting in your pocket. A truly remarkable achievement, that sparked a massive acceleration in the development of a catalogue of spin-off technologies that we all benefit from today.
Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong served in the Korean War, and then earned his aeronautical engineering bachelor’s degree at Purdue University in Indiana (Go Boilermakers!). He also spent some time as a test pilot before joining the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. Whilst embarking on only his second spaceflight (his first being as the command pilot of Gemini 8), Armstrong realised Kennedy’s ultimate Space-Race goal by landing on the moon and returning safely to the earth, and all that before the decade was out (if only just!). The Apollo 11 mission saw both Armstrong and Buzz (Aldrin, not Lightyear, although the former did inspire the penning of the latter) spending two point five hours of EVA exploring the lunar surface, whilst Michael Collins orbited above them in the Command Module.
During the Apollo programme, only 12 men walked on the Moon’s surface, with Eugene Cernan being the last man to leave the Moon in 1972. Space agencies have now set their sights beyond the Moon, with plans to explore nearby Asteroids and the red planet Mars, although such manned flights are still decades away.
“For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink. ” (Armstrong family statement)
Rest in peace Neil Alden Armstrong – August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012