Neil Armstrong, all American hero, Navy, Pilot, Test Pilot, X15 Test Pilot, Astronaut and first human being to leave a footprint on the surface of the Moon. Looking back at Armstrong’s lengthy and successful career it is not surprising at all that he was chosen for the most famous aviation mission ever planned. His love of enginering technology and of course flying some of the fastest aircraft known to man set the path for a long decade of planning towards the Moon. Missions Mercury and Gemini were training grounds for Astronauts like Armstrong allowing them to demonstrate that they really did have the right stuff for the work ahead.

Astronaut training for Armstrong would have been gruelling even for a man of his giftings, it was certainly not for the faint hearted. Astronauts of that era gave themselves little over 50 % chance of returning from a mission for the simple reason that their training was to aim for something so audacious that had never been  achieved before. NASA soon recognised his talent, cool character and tenacity that would  be needed after the 1967 Apollo 1 training tragedy which cost Gus Grissom , Roger Chaffee and Ed White their lives .NASA had found a new man to take that first step on the Lunar surface! A sturdy talented group of Astronauts were  trained to pave the way towards the Moon with Apollo’s  7-10 taking them on daring missions that would test every single technical requirement to get two men on to the Moon’s surface. Armstrong was fortunate that his crew included Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, both men of exceptional quality for the job. Not only did they need to reach the Moon , they had to rely on one man (Michael Collins ) to get them back. These past solo pilots now had to take team work to a whole new level.

And so it was in the heat of July 1969 a huge Saturn 5 rocket took off with 3 heroic Astronauts with Neil Armstrong as their Commander. NASA held their breath as they reached the point of deploying the Lunar module with Armstromg and Aldrin heading towards the sea of tranquility. The Lunar Module edged towards the Lunar surface extremely low on fuel trying to find a safe place to land on a surface that no one had ever landed before. Armstrong took the decision to correctly continue until safety was assured whilst NASA crew remained tense and uncertain. Meanwhile a brave Michael Collins sat alone in deep space waiting for a signal from Armstrong and Aldrin that they had landed ok. This was not a time for Armstrong to be nervous, but to rather keep his cool using his 20 years of Navy and Nasa training , and together with Aldrin they achieved it as the following dialouge confirms:

July 20th 1969 the worlds eyes are focused on 10 years of NASA’s preparation . Buzz aldrin converses probably the most famous conversation with his Commander Neil Armstrong:

Aldrin…”35 degree, 35 degrees/750 feet.Coming down at 23


Aldrin..“700 feet.21 down, 33 degrees

Armstrong..“Pretty rocky area”

Aldrin.. “600 feet , down at 19″

Aldrin.. “540 feet. down at …30.down at 15″ Okay you’re pegged on horizontal velocity”

Armstrong…“270 (feet) .Okay, hows the fuel?

Aldrin..“Take it down”

Armstrong..“Okay, Here’s a…looks like a good area here”

Aldrin..“I got the shadow out there”

Armstrong..“I got a good spot”

Aldrin..“100 feet.Three and a half down,nine forward. Five per cent.Quantity light”

Aldrin..“Okay. 75 feet.And its looking good.Down a half, six forward”

Capcom: “60 seconds”

Aldrin..40 feet, down two and a half. Picking up some dust”

CapCom..“30 seconds”

Aldrin..“Drifting forward just a little bit; thats good”

Aldrin..“Contact light”


Aldrin..“Okay engine stop”

CapCom.. “We copy you down , Eagle”

Armstrong..“Engine arm is off. Houston.Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed”

A brief conversation lasting several minutes reminds us of the importance of all those inspired declarations that were made by those involved with The Lunar project. We must remember that ” Imagination is nutritious food to every visionaries appetite”. Armstrong , Aldrin and Collins each had to have a strong appetite for imagination, for what they dreamt whilst growing up would surely hold them firm over several decades that would follow. There is in my opinion nothing better than a focused imagination, a hunger for hard work, a powerful ear to listen, and a brave instinct to make decisions at the most vital of times.

Faith in other people is a wonderful gift, that enables ground breaking events to take place. When it all comes together successfully, it is surprisingly so, not the time then to take a breather and relax. Over 10 years of success, failure, hard toil, sacrifice and even fear had been with Armstrong Aldrin and Collins during the Apollo Lunar build-up. Walking on the Lunar surface is more than just a statement of “We made it to the Moon”, it should inspire each of us all to believe that the things we dream about can actually happen. Neil Armstrong when he began walking down the ladder of the Lunar Module to take those famous first steps speaks these words to Cap Com. “I’m at the foot of the ladder. The LM fooftpads are only depressed in the surface about one or two inches although the surface appears to be very, very fine grained as you get close to it. Its almost like a powder. The ground mass is very fine. I’m going to step of the LM now”.

Now he would have to get himself ready for those first Lunar surface words, ” That’s one small step for man;one giant leap for mankind”. Having got to his “Great gig in the sky” he goes on to say: “The surface is fine and powdery, I can kick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the sole and sides of my boot. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine sandy particles” .

So we see that his footprint stamped on the Moon for all eternity signifies almost a statement of man’s permanency on that desolute lonely planet. It was indeed a giant step for mankind for back and forth we would go for another five missions stamping our claim on a planet that cannot give us anything back in return, except for the knowledge that we gained in getting there. So Mr Armstrong I salute you for reminding us that its part of our human make-up to dream, to have visions and goals that though sometimes they may seem way out of this planet, they are actually very close to the hearts of all mankind.

(c) gary royston cole (August 27th 2012)

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