Last updated on August 26, 2021
Neil A. Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) at the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory (later NASA’s Lewis Research Center, Cleveland, Ohio, and today the Glenn Research Center) in 1955. Later that year, he transferred to the NACA’s High-Speed Flight Station (today, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center) at Edwards Air Force Base in California as an aeronautical research scientist and then as a pilot, a position he held until becoming an astronaut in 1962. He was one of nine NASA astronauts in the second class to be chosen.
Neil A. Armstrong Credits: NASA Photo
Armstrong is probably best known as the commander of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon, during which he became the first person to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.
While at the NASA center that now bears his name, Armstrong was actively engaged in both piloting and engineering aspects of the X-15 hypersonic rocket plane program from its inception. He completed the first flight in an X-15 aircraft after it was equipped with a new airflow-direction sensor in its nose, as well as the initial flight in another X-15 equipped with a self-adaptive flight control system. He worked closely with designers and engineers in development of the adaptive system, and made seven flights in the rocket plane from December 1960 until July 1962. During those fights he reached a peak altitude of 207,500 feet in the X-15-3, and a speed of 3,989 mph (Mach 5.74) in the X-15-1.
Armstrong also served as project test pilot for research projects on the F-100A and F-100C aircraft, F-101, and the F-104A. He also flew the X-1B, X-5, F-105, F-106, B-47, KC-135, and Paresev. He left Dryden with a total of over 2,450 flying hours. He was a member of the USAF-NASA Dyna-Soar Pilot Consultant Group before the Dyna-Soar project was cancelled, and studied X-20 Dyna-Soar approaches and abort maneuvers using F-102A and F5D aircraft.
Armstrong was born August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He attended Purdue University, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1955. During the Korean War, which interrupted his engineering studies, he flew 78 combat missions in F9F-2 jet fighters. He was awarded the Air Medal and two Gold Stars. He later earned a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.
Armstrong amassed a total of eight days and 14 hours in space during two space flights, including two hours and 48 minutes walking on the moon. In March 1966 he commanded the Gemini 8 orbital space flight with David Scott as pilot that accomplished the first successful docking of two vehicles in orbit. That was followed by the famed Apollo 11 lunar landing mission in July 1969.
After leaving NASA’s astronaut corps that year, Armstrong served the agency as Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics at NASA Headquarters for two years.
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Armstrong left NASA in August 1971 to become Professor of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, a post he held until 1979. He became Chairman of the Board of Cardwell International, Ltd., in Lebanon, Ohio, in 1980 and served in that capacity until 1982. During the years 1982-1992, Armstrong was chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., in Charlottesville, Virginia. From 1981 to 1999, he served on the board of directors for Eaton Corp. He served as chairman of the board of AIL Systems, Inc. of Deer Park, New York, until 1999 and in 2000 was elected chairman of the board of EDO Corp., a manufacturer of electronic and mechanical systems for the aerospace, defense and industrial markets, based in New York City.
From 1985 to 1986, Armstrong served on the National Commission on Space, a presidential committee to develop goals for a national space program into the 21st century. He was also vice chairman of the committee investigating the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. During the early 1990s he hosted a television documentary series about aviation entitled First Flights.
Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom and the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1969; the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy in 1970; the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978; and many medals from other countries.
Armstrong died on Aug. 25, 2012 at the age of 82 due to complications relating to cardiovascular bypass procedures performed several weeks earlier.
Per congressional direction, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center was renamed the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center in his honor in early 2014, with a formal ceremony marking the redesignation held at the center on May 13, 2014.
View video of Neil Armstrong’s seven years as a research test pilot for the NACA and NASA