Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong: "All American"


Neil Armstrong: 1958
One of my boyhood radio heroes was Jack Armstrong, the “All-American Boy.” I can’t recall anything about him or his radio exploits but I have never forgotten the name. Years later in 1969 as I watched on TV with my wife and millions all over the world, I must have thought, along with many of my contemporaries born in the pre-TV years, that it was entirely appropriate that the first man to set foot on the moon should also be named Armstrong. 

Neil Armstrong was the epitome of the American hero. Even after his epic landing on the Sea of Tranquility he seemed to remain a quiet, unassuming Midwesterner much like his own boyhood idol Charles Lindbergh. Anyone familiar with Lindbergh knows that rather than being “Lucky” he was a skilled, competent pilot with an incredible amount of flying experience before he made his famous cross-Atlantic trip to Paris in 1927.

Armstrong was much the same way. It is hard to imagine that he would have been chosen by NASA if he wasn’t the best of the “top guns.” Watching and listening to the video below makes it appear that the actual landing on the Moon was a piece of cake. We hear the methodical, matter of fact, intonation of flight statistics as the landing vehicle makes its approach. What we don’t hear is that a crises developed in the cabin just before the landing. 
As they got closer to the surface it became clear to Armstrong and his co-pilot, Buzz Aldrin, that the landing zone was strewn with large boulders. Immediately he decided to seize control of the vehicle from the computer and make a manual landing as if he was flying a Midwestern barnstormer. We hear nothing on the tape that would indicate any panic or lack of control on Armstrong’s part. He landed the ship without a hitch and the rest is history.

I don’t think Jack Armstrong could have done it any better.###

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