Where did NASA start?

Neil Armstrong

The first man on the moon

Neil Armstrong was born in Ohio on August 5, 1930. He was fascinated by flying from an early age. As a 14-year-old he was already earning money to take flight lessons. He received his pilot's license on his 16th birthday.

He has always wanted to be a flight engineer, so after graduating from high school, he joined Purdue University in Indiana as a naval cadet. He was called up for military service and flew combat missions in the Korean War. After the war, he finished his studies and became a test pilot for the space agency, which later became NASA.

In 1962 Armstrong was selected from 300 applications for the US astronaut program. "Armstrong flies a plane as if it were his suit," remarked a colleague. With the X-15 rocket plane, Armstrong advanced as a test pilot up to an altitude of 63 kilometers.

During the early missions, Armstrong initially had to remain on the ground as a reserve pilot. It was not until 1966 that he was allowed into space for the first time with the "Gemini 8" mission. As one of the chief pilots, he carried out a difficult docking maneuver and brought the runaway spacecraft back into orbit. It is said that his responsiveness saved his life on several occasions.

His flying skills were also in great demand when landing on the moon, as he had to land by hand due to technical problems. Neil Armstrong spent a total of 8 days and 14 hours in space, according to NASA. He was on the moon for more than 21 hours, including 2 hours and 48 minutes outside the spacecraft.

"One small step ..."

"This is a small step for a human, but a giant leap for humanity." ("That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.") Neil Armstrong spoke this historical sentence when he was the first person to walk on the moon on July 21, 1969.

Words that made history. They reached millions of people all over the world who watched every picture and every sound that the television broadcast live from the moon in 1969 into the living room of the audience.

Some say that Armstrong came up with the sentence on the several-hour flight, others suspect that it was not Armstrong's idea to pronounce these first sentences on the moon. Rather, the writer Norman Mailer is said to have devised these words for Armstrong.

Since the moon landing took place in the middle of the Cold War, there could actually have been a lot of work in advance to appropriately honor this victory in the race to the moon linguistically.

Slips of the tongue with consequences

In the excitement of the first moon landing, however, a small slip of the tongue happened to Neil Armstrong. He said "one small step for man". So the planned "step for a person" became a small step for "the person".

With that slip of the tongue, Armstrong had not only ruined the pun. The journalists rushed to this mistake, which blamed not only Armstrong for the success of the moon landing, but also "the people".

NASA did not want to know anything about it at first. It wasn't until years later that the US space agency admitted that it had corrected Armstrong's words.

Moon flyers and managers

After his flight to the moon, Armstrong took on various tasks, initially at the NASA aeronautics office and later a professorship in aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Eventually the famous astronaut ended up in industry. He founded his own companies and allegedly made it a multiple millionaire.

Neil Armstrong was in demand as a space expert for a long time after the moon landing: He was a member of many different commissions, including one of the commission that investigated the Challenger disaster. Neil Armstrong died on August 25, 2012 as a result of bypass surgery.