Neil Armstrong: A man who shuns the limelight

July 18th, 2009 - 9:35 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 18 (DPA) In the four decades since the world watched his “one giant leap for mankind”, Neil Armstrong hasn’t had much use for the limelight.
Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon July 20, 1969, during NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. But he once said that going to the moon didn’t interest him nearly as much as the technology that got him there.

Born in 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong flew in his first plane at age six. At 15 he’d started flying, working odd jobs around his town to pay for lessons at a local airport. He got a pilot’s licence before he could drive a car, according to his NASA biography.

After being called to active duty in the US Navy in 1949, Armstrong flew 78 combat missions during the Korean War, and later worked as an engineer and test pilot.

He became an astronaut in 1962 and flew his first space mission in 1966. His trip to the moon required four years of training, according to NASA.

His first steps on the lunar surface were shown on live television in homes around the world, immortalising his famous observation, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Armstrong and his fellow Apollo 11 astronauts, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, were embraced as national heroes after their historic moon landing, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Richard Nixon. But Armstrong has tried to lead a quiet life since then.

He retired from space flight after his trip to the moon. He spent a year as a senior NASA administrator, then taught aerospace engineering until 1979.

For many years he refused to appear in advertisements, and when he became a spokesman for Chrysler in 1979 it was reportedly because he admired their engineering division.

Since then, Armstrong has worked largely in the private sector, serving on the board of Marathon Oil, Learjet and United Airlines, among others.

Numerous American elementary schools are named for the astronaut, and the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum opened in Wapokeneta in 1972.

Armstrong, who has been married twice, has two grown children and now lives on a farm in Lebanon, Ohio.

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