26 Aug 2012

Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, dies

The former Nasa astronaut who made the “giant leap for mankind” in 1969 dies, aged 82.

Armstrong led the Apollo 11 mission and became the first human to set foot on the moon on 20 July 1969.

He had undergone heart-bypass surgery earlier this month to relieve blocked coronary arteries.

Armstrong was called up by the United States Navy in 1949 and he saw action in the Korean war, flying reconnaissance and bombing missions.

He became a top test pilot after the war and joined Nasa‘s Astronaut Corps as a civilian flyer in 1962, having gained a degree in aeronautical engineering.

He was selected as the command pilot on the Gemini 8 mission in 1966, when he became one of the first American civilians to fly in space and performed the first manned docking of two spacecraft.

Neil Armstrong (Reuters)

Moon landing

In 1969 Armstrong was again chosen as commander on his second and last mission: the moon landing. Armstrong explored the lunar surface along with Buzz Aldrin (pictured right) and Michael Collins.

The scenes were beamed back to earth and were watched by an estimated television audience of 500 million people.

That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Neil Armstrong

Armstrong’s words, upon leaving the landing module, have become immortal: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

He later admitted he had meant to say “a man” but accidentally dropped the syllable in the excitement of the moment.

Armstrong’s pulse reached 150 beats per minute as he guided the lunar lander to the moon’s surface.

Asked about his experience on the moon, he told CBS: “It’s an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”

Neil Armstrong (Reuters)
The year after the triumphant mission Armstrong was appointed to a desk job, becoming Nasa's deputy associate administrator for aeronautics in the office of advanced research and technology.

He left the agency a year later to become a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

The former astronaut lived in the Cincinnati area with his wife, Carol, until his death.

A life in pictures: Neil Armstrong photo gallery