Neil Armstrong was a self-described “nerdy engineer” who became a global hero when he became the first person to set foot on the moon.
His first words upon stepping on the lunar surface have since been etched in history: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
An estimated 450 million people watched the grainy black and white broadcast that showed Mr Armstrong, clad in a white space suit, climb down the lunar module’s ladder onto the moon’s desolate surface.
He commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.
As the lead astronaut, it was also Mr Armstrong who notified mission control that the module had made a successful landing. “Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.”
He and fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.
“The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I have ever been exposed to,” Mr Armstrong once said.
The third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, circled the moon in the mother ship Columbia 60 miles overhead while Mr Armstrong and Mr Aldrin went to the moon’s surface.
Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio on August 5, 1930, Mr Armstrong had an early fascination with aircraft and worked at a nearby airport when he was a teenager.
He took flying lessons at the age of 15 and received his pilot’s licence on his 16th birthday. A US Navy aviator, he flew 78 missions in the Korean War.
He studied Aeronautical Engineering at Purdue University in Indiana, and later earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California.
In 1955, he became a test pilot at the High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California, where he flew about 50 different types of aircraft.
Seven years later, Mr Armstrong was selected by the National Air and Space Administration (Nasa) to train as an astronaut in Houston, Texas.
After retiring from Nasa in 1971, Mr Armstrong taught at the University of Cincinnati for nearly a decade and served on the boards of several companies, including Lear Jet, United Airlines and Marathon Oil.
He married Carol Knight in 1999, and the couple lived in Indian Hill, a Cincinnati suburb. He had two adult sons from a previous marriage.
Despite his worldwide fame, the lunar pioneer shied away from the limelight. After learning his autographs were being sold at exorbitant prices, he stopped signing memorabilia.
“I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer,” he said during one of his rare public appearances in February 2000.
“And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
However, he stepped back into the cameras in 2010 to voice his “substantial reservations” about President Barack Obama’s space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon, with an emphasis on private companies developing spaceships.
Along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, he signed a letter calling the plan a “misguided proposal that forces Nasa out of human space operations for the foreseeable future”.
Mr Armstrong underwent cardiac bypass surgery earlier this month after doctors found blockages in his coronary arteries.
He died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures, his family said in a statement. He was 82.
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Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/977135