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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fly Me To The Moon, Mr. Armstrong

By now, I am sure that you have all heard the latest news regarding Neil Armstrong, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82.

I decided that I would dedicate this entry in memory of Armstrong, and talk a little bit about his life and times before going ahead with the scheduled blog topic, because he really did a lot for NASA, and opened up a universe of opportunities, showing the human race that they didn't have to be any limitations for how far we could explore.

Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio. From the age of two years old, Armstrong developed a love of flying. Around that time, his father had taken him to the Cleveland Air Races, which likely kickstarted Armstrong's desire to fly. When he was six years old, he ended up experiencing his first airplane ride. He ended up taking flying lessons at a local airport when he was just a teenager, and by the time he was fifteen, he had already earned a flight certificate. I bet he was one of the few people in the world who learned how to fly an airplane before he learned how to drive a car!

TRIVIA: Neil Armstrong made the Boy Scouts of America a huge part of his life. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout while he served in the Boy Scouts, and as an adult he was given both the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and the Silver Buffalo Award.

In 1947, Armstrong enrolled at Purdue University in the field of aerospace engineering, and was awarded a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical engineering in 1955.

The reason why it took so long? Well, Armstrong was enrolled in the Navy between 1949 and 1952, assisting in the early stages of the Korean War. During his time serving in the Navy, he ended up flying a total of 78 missions over Korea for a combined total of 121 hours in flight.

I suppose you could say that all of this training would help him in his future career endeavours. After graduating from Purdue, Armstrong found work as a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base.

So, how did Armstrong end up becoming an astronaut?

It all began around 1958, when Armstrong was selected for the U.S. Air Force's Man In Space Soonest program. Two years later, he was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar, a military space plane. In 1962, he was named as one of the six pilot engineers who would fly the plane as soon as it got off the drawing board.

During this time, Armstrong began to express interest in NASA's Apollo program, and he had sent in an application to NASA to become a part of the second group of new astronauts. Unfortunately for Armstrong, his application arrived at least a week past the deadline. But in Armstrong's case, he also had a sort of guardian angel watching over him named Dick Day. Day had worked with Armstrong at Edwards, and managed to slip Armstrong's application into the pile of applicants discreetly. That move helped secure Armstrong's place in the space program.

(I love stories like that!)'

On September 13, 1962, Armstrong was accepted into the NASA Astronaut Corps as one of the “New Nine”, and he ended up participating in several space missions including being aboard Gemini 8 and Gemini 11.

But it wouldn't be until July 1969 that Neil Armstrong's name would be linked with one of the most extraordinary events ever recorded in world history.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11, carrying Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (Michael Collins, the third crew member stayed in lunar orbit while the other two went ahead with the moon exploration mission) landed atop the surface of the moon at approximately 8:17pm UTC with Armstrong reporting back to Mission Control stating the following; “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”

Shortly after that, the whole world watched as Armstrong stepped outside of the Apollo Lunar Module, and saw the following.

Now here's an interesting thing about Neil Armstrong's speech. You know, the one where he says “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”? Apparently there was supposed to be an “a” in between the for and man. Even 43 years after the moon landing, people still misquote that iconic line. Armstrong always insisted that he did say the line as he had intended it to be said (with an added “a”), but static cut it out.

Regardless, Neil Armstrong made history that day, becoming the first human to walk on the surface of the moon, where an estimated 450 million people either watched the landing on television or heard the news via the radio.

I just wish that I could have been alive at the time to witness this spectacle, but alas, I was born 12 years too late. And, I know that some people have the belief that the moon landing was nothing more than an elaborate hoax. But to me, Neil Armstrong will forever be remembered as an iconic hero in American history, and I don't think anything will ever take away from that.

Rest in peace, Neil Armstrong. You may have been the first man on the moon, but you'll forever be a star to so many people.

And now for today's Sunday Jukebox entry, which is also moon-themed.

ARTIST: Frank Sinatra
SONG: Fly Me To The Moon
ALBUM: It Might As Well Be Swing
DATE RECORDED: June 9, 1964

The song was originally written by songwriter Bart Howard in 1954, and was originally titled “In Other Words” when it was introduced by Felicia Sanders in cabarets. The song was first recorded by singer Kaye Ballard in 1954, and since then several other artists have covered this song.

Some of these artists included Johnny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, Shirley Bassey, Perry Como, Doris Day, Tony Bennett, Marvin Gaye, Diana Krall, and Rod Stewart.

Of course, Frank Sinatra's version was the most well-known, and therefore, it is the version that I have decided to focus on.

After all...I couldn't think of a better song to commemorate the life and times of the late Neil Armstrong than this classic.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great remembrance of a great man. I'd never heard the story about Dick Day slipping his application in after the deadline. That's a great addition to his overall story.

    - Andy