Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins--the team that realized President John F. Kennedy's dream of putting a person on the Moon by the end of the 1960s. All highly educated, rigorously trained and consumate pilots willing to accept overwhelming risk, it was their skill that turned the intricate technology of Apollo 11 into a triumph for the U.S.
Their historic journey was marked by ticker tape and such awards as the Medal of Freedom. All three have long since left NASA, won professional acclaim in other fields and settled quietly into retirement. Armstrong tends a farm in Lebanon, Ohio; Aldrin is an author and analyst of the space program living in Los Angeles; and Collins has also become an aerospace consultant and writer.
COMMANDER NEIL ALDEN ARMSTRONG earned his pilots license before he graduated from high school. Born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio, he received a Navy scholarship upon graduation from high school and entered Purdue University, where he studied aeronautical engineering. He was called to active duty in 1949 and flew 78 combat missions in Korea. After the war, he joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which later became NASA, as a test pilot, flying over 200 different aircraft, including the famous X-15, which traveled at 4,000 miles per hour. He was selected to be a member of the second class of astronauts in 1962. Prior to commanding Apollo 11, he flew his first space mission in 1966 as commander of Gemini VIII. When the capsule experienced severe pitching and rolling after docking with a target rocket in orbit, Armstrong sucessfully executed a crash landing in the Pacific.
LUNAR MODULE PILOT EDWIN E. "BUZZ" ALDRIN, JR. was born in Montclair, New Jersey on January 20, 1930 and became an astronaut during the selection of the third group by NASA in October 1963. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, became an Air Force pilot who flew 66 combat missions in Korea and earned a Ph.D. in astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In November 1966, he orbited Earth aboard the Gemini XII spacecraft and was a key figure in developing procedures for docking in space and for the extravehicular activities (EVA) of astronauts--procedures key to the Apollo missions.
COMMAND MODULE PILOT MICHAEL COLLINS was also among the astronauts selected in the third group in 1963. He was born on October 30, 1930 in Rome, Italy, but moved to Washington, D.C. as a child. He earned a bachelors degree from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and served as a fighter pilot and an experimental test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California. From 1959 to1963, he logged more than 4,200 hours of flying time. His first mission was a three-day Gemini X mission in July 1966, during which he set a world altitude record and became the nation's third spacewalker, completing two EVA's. Piloting the Apollo 11 command module through its lonely orbits around the dark side of the Moon was his second mission in space.
Back to The Eagle Has Landed
Go to THE LAUNCH