NASA’s Moon landing efforts bore fruit on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 safely reached the lunar surface. The historic Apollo mission was led by “reluctant American hero” Neil Armstrong, alongside astronauts Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. As mission commander, Armstrong had the privilege of being the first man to walk on the Moon. But up until his death the age of 82 on August 27, 2012, the astronaut shied away from the spotlight, choosing instead to live a private life.
Now, as the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing fast approaches, a re-released rare interview from 2005 has revealed why Commander Armstrong never embraced his celebrity status.
Speaking to Ed Bradley on a special edition of CBS’ 60 Minutes, the astronaut humbly denied responsibility for the success of Apollo 11.
When asked about his humility, Armstrong simply said: “I just don’t deserve it.”
Three men flew to the Moon and back in the summer of 1969 and two of them – Armstrong and Aldrin – landed on the lunar orb.
Moon landing: Astronaut Neil Armstrong shied away from fame after Apollo 11
Moon landing: Neil Armstrong joined the astronaut corps in 1962
Back on Earth, the Moon landing was backed by the tireless work of 400,000 men and women in the space race.
Over the years, Armstrong has diverted all praise and applause to these unnamed members of the Apollo programme who made the Moon landing a possibility.
I just don’t deserve it
The humble appearance in the eye of the public has earned the astronaut the title of a reluctant hero.
When Armstrong died in 2012, his family said in a statement: “Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
“Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job.”
The astronaut was survived by his Apollo 11 crewmates as well as his two wives and two sons.
Buzz Aldrin, who walked alongside Armstrong on the Moon, shared his heartbreak at not being able to celebrate the 50th Apollo 11 anniversary with his friend
He said: “I had truly hoped that on July 20th, 2019, Neil, Mike and I would be standing together to commemorate the 50th anniversary of our Moon landing, as we also anticipated the continued expansion of humanity into space, that our small mission helped make possible.
“Regrettably, this is not to be. Neil will most certainly be there with us in spirit.”
Neil Armstrong joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1962, following a career as a US Navy aviator.
On his very first space flight, Armstrong took command of NASA’s Gemini 8 mission in 1966.
In 1968, after serving as the back-up commander for Apollo 8, the astronaut was given reigns over the upcoming Apollo 11 mission.
But even that, Armstrong claimed, was a matter of circumstance.
He told 60 Minutes: “I wasn’t chosen to be first, I was just chosen to command that flight.
“Circumstance put me in that particular role. That wasn’t planned by anyone.”
Moon landing: Neil Armstrong died on August 27, 2012, at the age of 82
Apollo 11 crew: Michael Collins (centre) and Buzz Aldrin (right) are still alive and well
Quick facts about Neil Armstrong’s life:
1. DescriptionNeil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, in the city of Wapakoneta in central Ohio.
2. Between 1949 and 1952, Armstrong served as a naval aviator.
3. After the Moon landing in 1969, Armstrong served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics at NASA’s Washington Headquarters.
4. The retired astronaut worked as a Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati between 1971 and 1979.
5. Armstrong was survived by his wife, his two sons, his stepson, his stepdaughter, his brother, his sister and 10 grandchildren.
Quick facts about the Apollo 11 Moon landing:
1. Apollo 11’s Lunar Module Eagle landed on the Moon with less than 30 seconds of fuel due to being thrown off course.
2. Buzz Aldrin was senior in rank to Neil Armstrong but as mission commander, Armstrong was the first to walk on the Moon.
3. Michael Collins did not land on the Moon but stayed in the Columbia Command Module to fly his colleagues safely back home.
4. Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969, after eight days in space.
5. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their achievement.