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Neil Alden Armstrong was born on 5 August 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio.
He entered Purdue University, studying aeronautical engineering with the US Navy paying his tuition under the Holloway Plan. He became a midshipman in 1949 and a naval aviator the following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex.
After the war, he completed his bachelor’s degree at Purdue and became a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
He made 78 flights as a fighter pilot during the Korean War and was a test pilot on the X-15, during which time he brought it up to an altitude of 60 kilometres and a velocity of 6000 km per hour.
He was selected as an astronaut in September 1962, and by the time he was appointed Commander of the Apollo 11 mission, he had more than 4000 hours flying time under his belt.
On 20 July 1969, Armstrong and Apollo 11 pilot Buzz Aldrin became the first people to land on the Moon, and the next day they spent two and a half hours outside the Lunar Module Eagle spacecraft while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Apollo Command Module Columbia.
When Armstrong first stepped onto the lunar surface, he famously said: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It was broadcast live to an estimated 530 million viewers worldwide. Apollo 11 was a major US victory in the Space Race by fulfilling a national goal proposed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy “of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” before the end of the decade.
Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon and received the 1969 Collier Trophy.
President Jimmy Carter later presented him with the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978, he was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1979, and with his former crewmates received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Neil Armstrong passed away in August 2012 from complications from heart surgery he had earlier in the month.
He underwent surgery at Mercy Faith–Fairfield Hospital in Cincinnati to relieve four blocked coronary arteries on 7 August. Although he was reportedly recovering well, he developed complications and died on 25 August, aged 82.