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Neil Armstrong, First Man On The Moon, Will Long Be Remembered

Neil Armstrong
Portrait of Astronaut Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 mission. Image: NASA.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died. He was 82 years old.

Armstrong was an American astronaut and the commander of the Apollo 11 spacecraft on its mission to put men on the moon.

Apollo 11 was launched on July 16, 1969, and began orbiting the moon three days later. On July 20, Armstrong and his co-pilot, astronaut Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, took off from Apollo 11 in a small landing craft called Eagle. A third astronaut, Michael Collins, remained in the main ship, orbiting the moon until they returned.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world watched on TV as the Eagle landed on the moon. When Armstrong stepped out of the ship and onto the moon’s surface, he said, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”*

Armstrong and Aldrin explored the moon for more than two hours and collected about 50 pounds of moon rocks. They left behind a plaque which said: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

The Eagle remained on the moon for about 21 hours and then rejoined Apollo 11 for the return trip to Earth. Once the astronauts were back on Earth, they spent 16 days in quarantine (isolated from other people) to make sure they had not brought back any germs from space.

Armstrong had his first ride in an airplane when he six. By the time he was 15, he had learned how to fly a plane. In university, he studied aeronautical engineering – how to design and build aircraft.

During the Korean War in the 1950s, he was a U.S. Navy fighter pilot. After that, he became a test pilot for an organization which later became NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), the agency that runs the United States’ space program.

In 1962, Armstrong was selected by NASA to become an astronaut.

His first space flight was in 1966, as commander of Gemini 8. That mission was the first time two spacecraft docked in space.

When Armstrong left NASA, he taught aeronautical engineering at the University of Cincinnati, and later became a successful businessman.

He died on Aug. 25 of complications from heart surgery.

*Armstrong may have said, “One small step for a man,” or “One small step for man” – the audio wasn’t clear enough to tell and historians have had long debates about which one he actually said.

Armstrong also uttered another historic phrase when he first put the Eagle on the moon. He radioed to NASA that, “The Eagle has landed.” This phrase is now used in other contexts to mean, “We’ve arrived.”

Related Site
NASA’s obituary for Neil Armstrong.

Here is an excellent article in The New York Times online about the moon landing and the historical context of the time.

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Neil Armstrong may have left the “a” out of his first phrase from the moon. What is the difference between, “One small step for a man” and “One small step for man”? Why do you think people care what he said? What does the entire phrase (“One small step for a man, one small step for mankind”) mean? 

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
While Neil Armstrong may have traveled to the moon long before you were born, his journey probably affects your life today. Reflect on how his trip may have helped you to better understand the Earth, the universe and space.

Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult gets, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Grammar Feature: Indefinite and Definite Articles
The article “a” is indefinite in the following sentence: “Please hand me a cookie” because the speaker did not state which cookie they would like. However, in the sentence: “Pass me the cookie, please” the speaker uses the definite article “the” to indicate which cookie he/she would like.

Find the indefinite and definite articles in the story about Neil Armstrong. How do you know which is indefinite and which is definite?