We at GeekDad are sorry to report on the passing of legendary Astronaut Neil Armstrong at the age of 82. While he was best known for being the first human to set foot on the Moon during Apollo 11, his career is the stuff of legends. I want to stop and take a look at the career of the person who took those first steps on another part of the Solar System.
Born in Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1930, Neil began his career of service in 1949 as a Naval Aviator and later joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA. Working as a test pilot, Armstrong piloted many amazing and challenging aircraft, such as the X-15. Neil followed the transition from the NACA to NASA and became a civilian Astronaut in 1962 having retired from the Navy in 1960.
Neil’s first flew into space as the command pilot of Gemini VIII. That Gemini mission marked the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit when Neil, along with Dave Scott, docked the Gemini spacecraft to an Agena target craft. Shortly after docking, the whole Gemini-Agena linked structure started spinning. Based on guidance from Mission Control, they disconnected from the Agena only to have the problem, ultimatley, become much worse. The crew were able to determine that it was a stuck thruster on their spacecraft. Acting quickly as their spin approached 60 RPM, Armstrong activated the Reentry Control System and solved the problem, though that move forced an emergency landing. Neil’s cool head, quick thinking, and leadership saved their lives and brought them home safely.