Neil Armstrong made history as the first human to walk on the Moon, travelling to there as the commander of Apollo 11.
With 25 layers of protective materials, weighing in at 81 pounds, the spacesuits worn by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were a feat of engineering and crucial for protecting the astronauts and enabling them to perform their duties on the Moon. During the summer of 2015, the National Air and Space Museum embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to help conserve, digitize, and display Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit. Take a closer look at the suit, and how we conserved it.
Armstrong and Apollo 11 in the Collection
Apollo 11 was not Armstrong's first time in space. He previously flew on Gemini VIII in 1965, where he and astronaut David Scott were the first people to dock two vehicles in space successfully.
The successful docking was quickly followed by the first life-threatening, in-flight emergency in the short history of the U.S. human spaceflight program. Gemini VIII, joined to its Agena target vehicle, began spinning and gyrating; when the astronauts undocked, Gemini’s rotation accelerated to the point where the crew could black out and die. Together with his crew mates, Armstrong's cool handling of the situation saved their lives.
The Gemini VIII spacecraft, shown here, was used to carry out the first docking of two spacecraft in history. The spacecraft was an enlarged, redesigned version of the one-person spacecraft used during the Mercury program. It had two major units. The reentry module held the crew cabin and heat shield. Behind it was the adapter, which consisted of two sections. The equipment section carried fuel, oxygen, and power supplies. The retrograde section carried retrorockets that slowed the spacecraft to make it fall out of orbit. Using small rockets on the adapter, the astronauts could not only change their orientation in space, but also their orbital path.
Prior to his time as an astronaut, Armstrong was a student pilot, a Navy pilot, an aeronautical engineer, and eventually a test pilot for NASA.
His love of flight and engineering drew him to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) where he was accepted as an experimental test pilot soon after his graduation. While at the NACA, which was the predecessor to NASA, Armstrong flew a wide range of different aircraft including all of the Century series fighters for which he was the project pilot. All told, Armstrong flew more than 200 different types of aircraft in his storied career. Noted for his engineering excellence and technical capability as a pilot, Armstrong became one of only 12 pilots to fly the ultimate experimental aircraft – the North American X-15.
Armstrong left NASA in 1971 to become a professor of aerospace engineering, dedicating the rest of his life to education. He passed away at age 82 in August 2012.