Standing in a grain store in Lebanon, Ohio you could pass by a shortish gentle man with fleck white hair and glasses, he’ll say “Hi” then shuffle out to his pickup truck and head back to his farm, no one really takes a second glance and that is just the way Mr Armstrong likes it, Neil Armstrong, familiar?, “why yes didn’t he go up to the Moon”, he did, and walked into the history books as one on the most famous people to walk our planet (and another one on the side).
To Armstrong it was just a job, another day at the office, he notes that it was just that his crew were picked by the shuffle of rotating teams to do that fateful mission and that anyone of the other crews and pilots could have done the same job, He could be right by that as all of the second group of nine Astronauts were exceptional pilots and were trained to an inch of their life for their complex missions, but in reality I don’t think that Armstrong being the first man on the moon was the result of a shuffle or a pick of one of maybe fifteen commanders that could do the mission, no Armstrong was picked for one reason and one reason only, he was the only one to do the job.
And when the moment came he did what Nasa put him there for, he saved them from failure….in other words “he saved their necks and the moon program”
To look back at the 40th Anniversary of that day on 21st July 1969 and a giant moment in history is that even if they had the most up to date technical edge of the time it was really very primitive to do something like going to another world, landing and then come back to Earth, but they did, and as Apollo 13 showed how basic their tools were for survival, Nasa never lost any souls in space, three perished in the fire of Apollo One on the pad, and to them as all who ventured into deep space during those missions space is dangerous, it can kill you, but it was extremely successful to execute and delivered a journey so extraordinary they have since never been able to repeat the feat.
But why Armstrong?, well when his Gemini 6 Orbital Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS) went off and sending the capsule into a revolving spin, he pulled the craft apart from the Agena targeting vehicle and engaged the Reentry Control System (RCS) with this he had to come down and so the mission was scrapped which annoyed Armstrong for weeks, but he had saved himself and fellow pilot David Scott from certain death, death again reared its head again with the Lunar Landing Training Vehicles (LLTV) or ‘Flying Bedstead’ which on the the May 6, 1968,was about 100 feet (30 m) above the ground as it went AWOL and Neil ejected just 0.5 seconds from being to low to fall to the ground, he went to do paperwork straight after as he was behind in them being submitted like nothing unusual had happened, Over Korea, Armstrong flew 78 missions for a total of 121 hours in the air gaining the Air Medal for 20 combat missions, a Gold Star for the next 20, and the Korean Service Medal and Engagement Star, life didn’t get easier being a test pilot either as he was is right-hand seat of a B-29 Superfortress on March 22, 1956, which was to air-drop a Douglas Skyrocket D-558-2. when one engine (no.4) stopped then went windmilling out of control, and on the launch of the Skyrocket it disintegrated and damaged engines 3 and 2, Armstrong landed on only N0 1 engine still working, he was also a famous x15 pilot that on one test the X-15 literally bounced off the atmosphere and back up to 140,000 ft (43 km). At that altitude, the atmosphere is so thin that aerodynamic surfaces have no effect. He flew past the landing field at Mach 3 (2,000 mph, or 3,200 km/h) and over 100,000 ft (30.5 km) altitude. He ended up 45 miles (72 km) south of Edwards (legend has that he flew as far as the Rose Bowl). After finding sufficient descent, he turned back toward the landing area, and barely managed to land, the point is Neil Armstrong is maybe the most luckiest man to have ever lived or the best pilot that ever lived (most military pilots will poo poo that), but the fact is he was extraordinary in moments of crisis, and on that faithful day in July 1969 he again delivered.
At 357 694 km (kilometers) from the earth, and moving like projectile across the lunar surface the 1202 and 1201 alarms went off to signal a processing overflow in the lunar module computer, the small machine had been overloaded will commands and said enough was enough, Armstrong took manual control of the LM, found an area which to him seemed safe for a landing by overflying a crater the size of a football field and touched down on the moon at 20:17:39 UTC, “Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed” was the famous announcement that a man had done the impossible, he had coolly flew a machine in no air over another (planetary) body, and with alarms sounding and their fuel at a critical level (50 seconds of propellant burn time) and with a whole world watching his every movement he did his job to perfection.
All three crew on Apollo 11 made history, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were the true professionals and fulfilled their roles to perfection, for Collins after retiring from NASA and finishing his PR duties he went to the Department of State as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. A year later he became the director of the National Air and Space Museum. He held this position until 1978 when he stepped down to become undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution, his autobiography in 1974 Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut’s Journey was one of the best on the Apollo Program and journey to the moon.
Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr (or Buzz) was a stranger tale that shows how different two personalities that can do one thing together as pilots and as Astronauts, but could be totally different in perspective in the real world, he was a West Point man and more of a academic than his other crew mates as Aldrin improvised an effective exercise in earth orbital mechanics to rendezvous with a coordinate or vehicle in space and paving the way for two space vehicles to acheive docking which was essential to the Apollo Project, He was confirmed as pilot on Gemini 12, the last Gemini mission and the last chance to prove methods for EVA. Aldrin set a record for extra-vehicular activity and proved that astronauts could work outside the spacecraft.
But all started to unravel before Apollo 11 left on its epic journey, he was totally devastated that the NASA management had selected Armstrong to step first on to the moon, to which Aldrin expected to be a shoe-in, his reasoning was that the commander stayed with the ship and the other goes on the EVA in case anything goes wrong, he was wrong as NASA knew that Armstrong with less ego (as history has proved) would be more competent to go out first and do the right thing by running to the letter what needed to be achieved.
From the moment Buzz returned to Terra Firma something physiological has drove this former calm methodical person to sell himself out as some media junkie, the jokes of “being second is nothing” had taken hold.
Americans by nature loath failure, being 2nd is close to death, there is one winner and everyone else is a failure, and with people in the public eye the effects are magnified beyond reason, it is a fame thing, “if I touch fame I could be famous or get rich” so Americans shun people that are just as brave or just as talented but came 2nd or 3rd and for Buzz he spent the rest of his life being a number 2, he doesn’t help his cause either by trying to play the fame game to be liked and loved, he created a monster in the fact that anything related to that famous flight had to endorsed or sold by him from voiceovers to The Simpsons, pens, books, caps, T-Shirts, Astronaut Dolls, posters and even Rap songs with Snoop dog and co, in fact turn around in any book shop and their is something with his name on it, any documentary and he will be sitting there as though he alone conquered the moon and receives between $30,000-$50,000 per public appearance, but this fame has come at a cost.
Depression and alcoholism, married three time and divorced twice, a Moon hoax theory expert heckled him “You’re the one who said you walked on the moon and you didn’t!” He called Aldrin “a coward and a liar”. 72-year-old Aldrin responded by punching the hoaxer in the face shows that fame has a dark side but remember he went there and sold his soul for the money unlike his crew mates that disappeared to try to live a normal life, Aldrin couldn’t change history so why fight it and be proud of what he had achieved.
For Neil Armstrong he couldn’t wait to drop out of the public eye, hated the whole circus and wanted some peace, his barber of 20 years sold his hair and Armstrong sued him and made him pay $3000 to a charity, but otherwise Neil Armstrong the most most famous man on earth as well as the Moon completely disappeared and rarely showed at any function or benefit in his or NASA’s honor, today his approach is simple “I was a man just doing his job, and that is all I want to be remember for”
But Mr Armstrong has to accept that he was more than just a good pilot, he was an extraordinary human being that cheated death with his shear coolness of attitude and focus did the impossible in an impossible situation in more than one situation , and created history, and to be humble in his approach and believe that he was just like the rest of us made him even more of extraordinary person, Heroes today are very misused in terms and fame, but Neil Armstrong is a the real deal, an out of this world hero, NASA was right to select such a upstanding person to do a giant moment in history, he got them up there and he came home and rest is history.