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)

Landing on the Moon

(NASA/Andrew Chaikin)

There are few photos of Armstrong on the lunar surface (he was operating the camera most of the time), but Apollo historian Andrew Chaikin uncovered this gem while looking at frames of 16 mm film shot during the first moonwalk: a picture of Armstrong with his gold visor raised, so that his face is visible.

During the Apollo 11 crew's debriefing following their mission, Armstrong gave this description of the first moonwalk:

“I went the farthest. While Buzz was returning from [setting up an experiment], I went back to a big crater behind us. It was a crater that I’d estimate to be 70 or 80 feet in diameter and 15 or 20 feet deep. I went back to take some pictures of that; it was between 200 and 300 feet from the [Lunar Module]. [Note: Armstrong's tracks are still visible on the moon, extending to the right of the LM in this image taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.] I ran there and ran back because I didn’t want to spend much time doing that, but it was no trouble to make that kind of a trek—a couple of hundred feet or so. It just took a few minutes to lope back there, take those pictures, and then come back. …

I can best describe a lope as having both feet off the ground at the same time, as opposed to walking where you have one foot on the ground at all times. In loping, you leave the ground with both feet and come down with one foot in a normal running fashion. It’s not like an earth run here, because you are taking advantage of the low gravity.

… It was fairly comfortable, but at the end of this trip, going out there and back, I was already feeling like I wanted to stop and rest a little. After about 500 feet of this loping with a 1-minute stop out there in the middle to take pictures, I was ready to slow down and rest. There were a lot of interesting areas within 500 feet or so to go and look at if we had had the time. It would have been interesting to take that time and go out and inspect them closely and get some pictures, but that was a luxury we didn't have.”


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