Purdue remembers Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong, the first human to set foot on the moon, and a Purdue University aeronautical engineering alumnus, died Saturday August 25, 2012.
In 1947, Armstrong enrolled at Purdue University on a Navy scholarship to pursue a degree in aeronautical engineering. In 1949 the Navy called him to active duty in the Korean War.
As a Navy pilot, he flew 78 combat missions. He received three medals for his military service. In 1952 he returned to his studies and completed his BS at Purdue and an MS in aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California.
As a research pilot at NASA's Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., he was a project pilot on many pioneering high-speed aircraft, including the well known, 4000-mph X-15. He flew over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.
Armstrong transferred to astronaut status in 1962 and was assigned as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission. Here he presents Purdue President Frederick Hovde a flag that he carried with him on his mission. The Gemini mission was the first successful docking of two crafts and was integral to the success of later missions.
Armstrong received honorary doctorates from 17 countries, and was the recipient of many other honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Space Medal of Honor, Explorers Club Medal, NASA Distinguished Service Medal, Harmon International Aviation Trophy, Royal Geographic Society's Gold Medal, Federation Aeronautique Internationale's Gold Space Medal, and the American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award.
Armstrong was a regular visitor to campus his entire life. He was part of the Purdue marching band and the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Armstrong enjoyed Purdue football immensely. Students have remarked how surprised they were at Armstrong’s genuine interest in their academic pursuits.
Armstrong retired from NASA in 1971 after the Apollo 11 flight. Although frequently in the company of politicians, Armstrong remained largely undefined politically, unlike many other astronauts. Rather, he devoted himself to teaching, serving as Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, 1971-1979. He served on many boards and was a tireless champion for engineering and aeronautic education.
23 Purdue graduates have been selected as NASA astronauts. In 1985 Purdue hosted an astronaut reunion.
Armstrong’s footprint on the lunar surface may endure for millennia. His impact on Purdue endures as well. Armstrong Hall is the flagship building for Purdue’s world-renowned Engineering program. Designed to inspire the spirit of discovery of the space program, it is the manifestation of a true friendship between a world-class university and a man whose boundless ideas, optimism and dedication propelled him to feats that captivated the world.
Thanks to Purdue University News Service, Purdue University Alumni, Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections, UK Guardian, Associated Press.