Imagine This: People have dreamed of reaching the Moon for hundreds of years, but no one has ever tried to land a spacecraft there. Now that may actually be possible and you dream of being the one to do it!
You’re born August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the oldest of three children. Growing up, you love to read and, in the first grade, you read ninety books.
One Sunday, when you’re six years old, your life is changed forever! You’re supposed to be at church, but instead, you and your father sneak off to the airport where a pilot is in town offering rides in his Ford tri-motor airplane known at the “Tin Goose.”
After that first plane ride, you want to fly, and you spend all your free time building model airplanes. You make hundreds of model planes and even build a wind tunnel in your basement to test them.
By the time you’re nine, you’re decorating your bedroom with planes hung from the ceiling, and when you’re not building model planes, you spend your spare time reading about planes.
At fifteen, you begin taking flying lessons. Each lesson costs nine dollars an hour and you work at a hardware store, a grocery store, and later a pharmacy to pay for your lessons. Soaring through the sky is worth all the hard work!
On your sixteenth birthday, you receive the best possible present, your pilot’s license. Now you can fly on your own. You have your pilot’s license before your driver’s license.
You love science, math, and astronomy and find the planets and stars to be almost as amazing as airplanes. You’re particularly fascinated by the Moon.
In 1947 the United States Navy offers you a scholarship for study at a school of your choice, so you begin work on an aeronautical engineering degree at Purdue University. In return for the scholarship, you agree to join the Navy after college.
Before you can earn your degree, however, a war starts in Korea, and in 1949 you’re called to active duty with the Navy. After some brief training, you’re assigned to an aircraft, the USS Essex, as a fighter pilot. Your dream of being a pilot has come true.
You fly seventy-eight missions during the Korean War and receive three medals for courage. You also become known as a pilot who can handle all kinds of danger.
After your tour of duty is over, you return to college. After graduating in 1955, you head to Edwards Air Force Base in California where the American government is building and testing new kinds of airplanes, just what you’ve dreamed of doing!
Your most exciting job there is testing the X-15 rocket plane which is almost like going into space. On one flight in 1962 you reach a peak altitude of 207,500 feet.
On February 20, 1962, astronaut John Glenn orbits the Earth three times in the space capsule Friendship 7, and you decide to apply for NASA’s (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) astronaut program.
Out of hundreds of hopeful pilots, you and eight others are chosen in September 1962. You work hard and in January 1969 NASA names you commander of Apollo 11. For the first time human beings will try to land on the Moon and you’ll be their leader. And the rest, as they say, is history. On July 20, 1969, you become the first human being to walk on the moon!
The young boy who had dreamed of flying planes had indeed left his mark in the history of space exploration!
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Neil Armstrong (1930- )
Excerpted from They Stood Alone!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference by Sandra McLeod Humphrey
For More about Neil Armstrong
Giving Back: After leaving NASA, Neil Armstrong joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati as a professor of aerospace engineering.
Did You Know that Neil Armstrong has a crater on the moon named after him?
Something to Think about: Do you really think it was his first ride in an airplane when he was six that inspired Neil Armstrong to dream of becoming a pilot and later an astronaut? Why or why not?
Willoughby and I hope you enjoyed this week’s true story and will be back next week for another story to inspire you to DARE TO DREAM BIG!