Neil Armstrong, In His Own Words

The first moonwalker's storied aviation career

Armstrong in the cockpit of the X-15 in 1961, a year before becoming an astronaut. (NASA)

Crashing LLRV, 1968


One of the more harrowing events in Armstrong's career was his ejection from a crashing lunar landing research vehicle (LLRV) in 1968. He described the accident in "First on the Moon":

“It was my twenty-first flight in the LLRV. I was flying the terminal portion of a simulated lunar landing profile; I lifted the vehicle off the ground and reached an altitude of about five hundred feet in preparation for making the landing profile. I had been airborne for about five minutes and was down to about two hundred feet when the trouble began. The vehicle began to tilt sharply. Afterward this incident was reported as an explosion, but that was erroneous. It’s just that there are all the exhaust products of those rocket engines going off, and since there were a lot of engines firing at once people on the ground thought they were seeing an explosion. They were mistaken…

This particular vehicle was the first LLRV…and it had made about fifty flights at Ellington before the day of the crash. This day it fell straight down. The ejection system threw me somewhat east of the landing point of the machine, but the wind was from the east. At the time my chute opened I was a bit concerned that I might be drifting down into the fireball, because by now the vehicle had crashed and was burning. I started thinking about slipping the chute, but the wind was strong and I actually missed the flames by several hundred feet.

I got up and walked away after I landed. The only damage to me was that I bit my tongue.”

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