Nova (1974–…): Season 41, Episode 23 - First Man on the Moon - full transcript

In-depth portrait of Neil A. Armstrong, world-famous for being the first human to set foot on another celestial body. Highlights include his service in the military, as a test pilot and in the U.S. space program. Personal biographical highlights include discussions with family and friends.

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As Apollo 11 embarked

on mankind's bold adventure
to land on the Moon...

the world's hopes and dreams

hung on the actions
of its three-man crew,

especially commander
Neil Armstrong.

With the skills
that had made him

one of America's
finest aviators,

Armstrong marked his place in
history with these famous words.

That's one small step for Man,

one giant leap for mankind.

But what was it that had brought
him to this historic moment?

Armstrong had climbed to the
pinnacle of his profession...

Tested in combat
in the skies over Korea...

Reaching to the limit
of the atmosphere

as an elite test pilot,

and on into space,
where his cool head saved lives.

And finally, accepting
a life-long mantle of fame

that didn't always
sit well with him.

We ask a lot of our heroes.

We put a burden on them.

We put a burden on Neil
Armstrong that he didn't enjoy.

So who was Neil Armstrong?

His story now told by those
who lived, loved and worked

with the "First Man
on the Moon,"

up next on NOVA.

I believe that this nation
should commit itself

to achieving the goal
before this decade is out

of landing a man on the Moon

and returning him safely
to the Earth.

When President John F. Kennedy

articulated this bold vision
in 1961,

he pinned American technological
supremacy and national pride

on winning a race to the Moon.

The stakes were huge.

It staggers the imagination,

and there were plenty of people
even within NASA

who thought that Kennedy
had lost his sanity.

just eight years later,

three men were poised to achieve
the President's goal.

In command was Neil Armstrong.

We the crew of Apollo 11

are privileged to represent
the United States

in our first attempt to take man
to another heavenly body.

At 38 years old,

Armstrong was at the pinnacle
of an impressive flying career.

An innate steadiness along with
exceptional aviation skills

had seen him
through the Korean War,

allowed him to master
the most unforgiving aircraft

as a test pilot,

and brought a crippled
spacecraft safely back to Earth.

Now his ability as a pilot would
be put to the ultimate test:

attempting a landing
on the Moon.

As the world held its breath,

and with only seconds
of fuel remaining,

Neil Armstrong guided
his fragile craft

towards the surface
of an alien world.

He was about to complete
a journey

that for him had begun
more than 30 years before,

when he had first taken flight
as a young boy.

Born here in Wapakoneta, Ohio,
on August 5, 1930,

Neil Armstrong's love affair
with flying began early,

as his childhood friend recalls.

When he was like five years old,

his father took him
on an airplane ride,

on a Trimotor.

Dad got sick, but Neil
just absolutely loved it.

The mid-1930s was a golden age
of flight in America,

and like many other
young children,

Neil's first taste
of being airborne

left a lasting impression.

This was the start,

and the feeling
of being airborne,

and actually flying like a bird.

It kindled his inspiration
to fly.

He absolutely loved everything
about flight.

He would have three or four
model airplane projects

going on all the time:
mostly gliders,

then he got into
the rubber band type,

and he just kept building
bigger and bigger ones

and better ones.

We both made models early,

and of course our desire then,
as it was later in our careers,

was to make these things
go higher and faster.

And my solution
to higher and faster was

you took a couple of extra turns
on the rubber band.

Neil's solution:

he built a wind tunnel!

When we were ready for the test,
he said, "Go get Mom."

I said, "Neil wants you
to see something,"

and he turned it on.

And all of a sudden
the house shook,

and I mean the house
really shook.

How many kids could build a wind
tunnel in their basement?

Not any that I know,
except Neil.

Neil's infatuation with flying
was fueled

as America entered the Second
World War in December 1941.

He devoured the daring exploits
of Allied pilots

portrayed in popular
wartime magazines.

They inspired him,

and at just 15 years old,
he learned to fly.

He had his pilot's license

before he had
his driver's license.

During the war,

developments in aviation
were moving fast.

After 1945, propeller planes
were starting to be replaced

by aircraft powered by jet
and rocket engines.

Then came an event
that shook the aviation world.

Chuck Yeager
breaking the speed of sound

in his Bell X-1 Rocket plane
in 1947

coincided with an ominous turn
in East-West relations.

And the implications for
Armstrong would prove profound.

Eager to pursue a career
in aeronautical engineering,

Armstrong won a Navy scholarship
to study the subject

and enrolled
at Purdue University.

But his studies
were soon interrupted

as the Cold War
began to heat up.

At the end of his second year,

which would have been 1950,
the Korean War started.

Backed by Communist China,
North Korea invaded South Korea.

When America responded by
scrambling its armed forces,

Armstrong found himself at war.

He was 20 years old.

He joined
Naval Fighter Squadron VF-51

on the aircraft carrier
USS Essex.

There was a lot to learn,
and fast,

as he recalls
in this audio interview.

We had to come carrier-qualified
in the jet aircraft.

Doing a lot of practice
with weapons delivery,

instrument flying and so on.

I was very young, very green.

But Armstrong quickly mastered
carrier flying,

one of aviation's
most challenging jobs,

and was soon showing his skill
in combat.

One of his jobs was to dive-bomb

and blow up bridges
and railroads.

And he said that the North
Koreans strung up wires.

For low-flying pilots,

anti-aircraft cables
were an ever-present danger.

They were hard to spot,

even for the sharp-eyed

I actually ran through a cable,
an anti-aircraft cable,

and knocked off about six
or eight feet of my right wing.

Battling to keep control,

Armstrong needed to think fast
and react quickly.

As long as he could keep
a certain speed,

he could stay up,

but as soon as he slowed down,
the plane would drop,

so he knew that he could not
land on the aircraft carrier.

He'd have to bail out.

This close shave revealed
Armstrong's uncanny ability

to always remain calm
under pressure.

He never showed any fear
or anything

involving his close calls.

He really loved
what he was doing.

It was a very meaningful time
for him.

The Korean War
sharpened the skills

of many young pilots,
including Armstrong.

He'd flown 78 missions
by the age of 22.

He returned to Purdue in 1952,

where he received his degree
and found a wife.

Oh, I met him at Purdue.

He told someone that I was
the one he was going to marry,

but he never asked me out
until he had graduated.

We were married in January 1956.

And after that, in May,
we went up to the desert.

Here at Edwards Air Force Base
in California,

Armstrong would become
a test pilot.

Edwards was the mecca
for America's elite aviators.

But the work wasn't
for the faint-hearted.

It required a cool head,
quick thinking

and the ability to understand
how an untested machine

would react
in an untried environment.

Honing these skills
would make test pilots

top contenders
for future space missions,

and Armstrong was no exception.

We were out at the edges
of the flight envelope

all the time, testing limits.

If memory serves,

there were 17 aircraft,
pretty much all different.

A lot of X airplanes
and fighters,

a B-47, a couple of B-29s,
all kinds of exotic aircraft.

Then as they became
more confident in my abilities,

they gave me more and more jobs,

and I did a lot of different
test programs in those days.

The kinds of flying
that he did at Edwards

really put him in the elite top
of the test-flying fraternity.

But one machine at Edwards

pushed Armstrong higher
and faster than any other...

the X-15.

Heading uphill at 33,000 feet...

The X-15 was literally
crossing the boundary

from aviation into space flight,

and it was an incredibly
demanding vehicle to fly.

Half-plane, half-spacecraft,
the rocket-powered X-15

was the cutting edge
of aviation technology.

It flew at hypersonic speeds,

more than six times faster
than sound,

soaring over 50 miles
in altitude.

It still holds the record
of the fastest plane ever flown.

The X-15 was absolutely
the top of the line.

It was a whole supersonic zone
above the rest of us,

and therefore,
all the people who flew the X-15

were held in the highest regard
by the rest of us peasants.

Neil of course
was one of that group.

That was a very
exciting program.

Challenging goals.

I think it was certainly

one of the memorable parts
of my life.

One flight almost got
the better of him.

I got the nose
up above the horizon,

and I found I was actually,
you know,

skipping outside the atmosphere.

I had no aerodynamic controls.

Soaring out of the atmosphere
at almost a mile a second,

Armstrong was unable
to keep control.

What I couldn't do is
get back down in the atmosphere.

I pulled over and pulled down,
but it wasn't going down

because there was no air
to bite into.

So I just had to wait

until I got back in
with enough air

to have aerodynamic control
and some lift on the wings

and immediately started
making a turn back.

He's the essence
of the engineering test pilot,

and what that carries with it

is an intensity,
a focus like you can't imagine.

The X-15 further challenged
and sharpened

Armstrong's flying ability.

But his young family also
faced challenges at Edwards.

It was totally different,

foreign to anything
I'd ever known in my life.

That's where we lived
when Rick was born,

and then shortly thereafter,

In 1961, aged two,
Karen fell seriously ill.

Karen was a precious thing,

and she developed a tumor
in her brain.

And, um...

We could not save her.

The death of Karen
really hurt him.

It was the only time
that I'd ever seen him

really, really hurt.

Couldn't talk about it.

Despite his loss,
to all outward appearances,

Armstrong remained focused
on his duties as a test pilot.

But beyond the skies at Edwards,
the Space Race was on...

Opening up an entirely new set
of opportunities.

and the clock has started!

America's manned space program

began with Project Mercury
in 1961:

six short flights, each carrying
a single astronaut.

But to meet
President Kennedy's challenge

of landing a man on the Moon
by the end of the decade,

NASA would require
more astronauts.

When NASA was looking,

you know, Neil Armstrong
was at the top of their list

because he'd had

all of that flight test
experience at Edwards,

and that just made him
incredibly attractive

to the Astronaut
Selection Group.

Curiously, the Milwaukee Journal
gave me a call.

And they said,

"I understand your brother is
one of the newest astronauts."

I was...

I think I was speechless.

Along with Janet, Rick
and a new son, Mark,

Neil began a new life
in Houston,

the home of America's
manned space program.

It was a nice house.

You know, we had a pool.

Because it was Houston,
because it was often very hot,

there was a lot of swimming.

The neighborhood was buzzing
with trainee astronauts.

There was this guy

in the backyard,

in front of the garage
where there's a lot of cement,

and here's this guy
roller skating.

I said, "Who's that?"

They said, "Oh,
that's Neil Armstrong."

By 1964, NASA's blueprint
to reach the Moon

was taking shape,

as this animated film
of the time shows.

It was called Project Apollo.

The plan went like this:

guzzling 15 tons of fuel
a second at launch,

the giant Saturn V rocket would
send the Apollo spacecraft,

both the Command
and Lunar Module, into space.

After about 69 hours,

they go into orbit
around the Moon.

Once there,
the spacecraft undock.

The command module
remains in orbit

while the lunar module
attempts the landing.

After exploring the surface,

the two astronauts rejoin
their companion in lunar orbit.

Finally, they leave lunar orbit
and make the trip back to Earth.

And the mission ends
with the Command Module

the Earth's atmosphere

and splashing down
in the Pacific.

It looked great on paper,
but could it work?

Finding out was the task
of Project Gemini.

The demands of a lunar mission
were so great.

You had to learn
how to rendezvous in space,

you had to keep people
happy and healthy

for up to two weeks in space,

they had to be able to work
in the vacuum of space

in a spacesuit,
a pressurized suit.

So Gemini was really the way
that NASA could learn

to master these complexities

in the relative safety
of low-Earth orbit.

Armstrong's first space flight
was Gemini 8 in 1966,

a daring mission to attempt
the first docking in space

with an unmanned spacecraft
called Agena.

His co-pilot was Dave Scott.

Well, yes, I mean, the whole
program depended on docking.

Docking had to be proven
or we couldn't go to the Moon.

So it was a critical mission,

Squeezed into their
tight-fitting Gemini capsule,

the pair prepared for launch.

Neither of them knew
what lay in store.

Three, two, one, zero.

We have ignition.

And we have a lift-off
at three seconds.

Three seconds.

Neil Armstrong reports
the clock has started.

Roll program is in,
Armstrong says.

Well, in our homes
during the flight,

we had air-to-ground

We called them the squawk box

because it squawked
all the time.

Roger, we have staging.

When they talked air-to-ground,
you could update yourself.

They started out just great.

Okay, we've got a visual
on the Agena at 76 miles.

Roger, understand,
visual on the Agena at 76 miles.

Their docking target,
the Agena rocket,

had been launched
earlier that day.

As Armstrong and Scott

passed into the night side
of the Earth,

they prepared for docking.

Okay, Gemini 8,

you're looking good
on the ground.

Go ahead and dock.

Neil eased it forward,

and we moved right in.

But within half an hour,

Scott realized
there was something wrong.

You're supposed to fly straight
and level like an airplane,

but all of a sudden,
I noticed that we were tilted.

They didn't know it,

but a small maneuvering thruster
on their Gemini spacecraft

had become stuck and was firing.

We first suspected that
the Agena was the culprit.

We were on the dark side
of the Earth,

so we really didn't have
any outside reference.

Out of contact with the ground,

the astronauts struggled
to regain control.

So I said, "Neil,
we'd better get off."

He said, "Yeah, we'd better get
off, let's prepare to undock."

And he says, "Ready?"

And I put my hand on the switch.

Neil says, "Undock."

And then things start
really moving.

Then we go into
a very rapid roll

which was almost a tumble,

and at that point we realized
that it wasn't the Agena,

it must be the Gemini.

They were spinning at maybe
a revolution per second.

At home, a photographer from
Life magazine captured Janet

as she listened
to the unfolding drama.

And there was

a very strong concern
that they would black out.

And that would be it.

It would be over.

And then NASA
cut the squawk box.

I didn't like that.

So I went over to NASA,

and I was refused entry.

Back in orbit,
Armstrong kept his cool,

figuring out his only
remaining option:

all the maneuvering thrusters

including the one that was stuck

and use the re-entry thrusters
to counteract the tumbling

and regain control
of the spacecraft.

He had to reach
up above his head

and throw switches
under this high-speed roll.

That's amazing
that he was able to do that

and he knew exactly
where the switches were,

exactly which ones to throw.

I mean, the guy was brilliant.

He knew the system so well
that he found the solution,

he activated the solution
under extreme circumstances,

and I got to say
it was my lucky day

to be flying
with Mr. Neil Armstrong.

the re-entry thrusters

meant aborting the mission,

and a couple of hours later,
the crew splashed down

in the South China Sea.

Armstrong had cut short
the flight,

but he'd saved their lives.

He landed and came home.

You know, he's telling me
about the flight.

We knew that they could have
lost their life,

and you knew that anyway,

so there's no point
in talking about it.

You either do or you don't.

That's the way it is, you know?

That was sort of NASA's
baptism of fire,

because it was the first time
that astronauts

had really come close to losing
their lives on a space flight.

I don't think there's any doubt

that the people who were running
the show in Houston

saw Neil's performance
on Gemini 8

as a real demonstration

of what he was capable of
under pressure, in a crisis.

The full risks
of the space program hit home

less than a year later
in January 1967,

when the Apollo 1 spacecraft
caught fire on the pad,

killing its three-man crew:

Gus Grissom, Ed White
and Roger Chaffee.

Armstrong found himself
burying his friends.

Everybody's attitude
that I knew was,

"This is a real disaster,
but we go on

"because we know Gus
and Ed and Roger

would want us to go on,
wouldn't want us to stop."

Overhauling Apollo
took almost two years.

Eager to make up for lost time,

NASA launched
Apollos 7, 8, 9 and 10

in quick succession.

They were designed to rigorously
test every aspect of Apollo

in Earth and lunar orbit.

Armstrong's next trip into space

hinged on the success
of these missions.

NASA's flight roster
called for him

to be back-up commander
of Apollo 8 in December 1968,

and it placed him in line
to command Apollo 11.

As it turned out,
this would be the first mission

to attempt a landing
on the Moon.

Nobody thought that
all those preliminary flights

would go as perfectly
as they did.

And nobody would have predicted

that you would arrive
at July 1969

and Apollo 11 would actually be

the first attempt
to land on the Moon.

Joining Armstrong was Command
Module pilot Mike Collins.

Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin

would attempt the landing
with Neil.

If all went well,

Commander Armstrong
would be first out on the Moon.

But in characteristic fashion,
he played it down.

Neil's attitude is,

"I'm not going to be number one
on the Moon."

What I saw in his attitude was,

"I'm training
to be the first one

to attempt the landing
on the Moon."

Landing on the Moon

would be unlike anything
anyone had experienced.

To get a feel of flying
in lunar gravity,

Armstrong practiced in this...

The Lunar Landing
Research Vehicle...

Affectionately called
the Flying Bedstead.

It was not the most stable
flying machine

that you could ever step into.

If you tilted too far over

or if something happened
to the rocket engines,

you'd fall out of the sky
and you'd be dead.

It was difficult to fly.

But on the other hand,

I think we all felt that
absolutely mandatory to be able

to fly that type vehicle
before you go to the Moon.

On one of Armstrong's flights,

a failure of the fuel system
meant he lost control.

He was lucky to escape
with his life.

But he brushed it off
as if nothing had happened.

And that was so classic
Neil Armstrong,

that he wasn't gonna let that

get in the way
of the rest of his day.

He said there was work to do,
and he did it.

Cape Kennedy, Florida.

Over a million people came

to watch Apollo 11 leave
for the Moon on July 16, 1969.

Among them was Armstrong's
childhood friend.

The day before the launch,

we had a tour of the facilities
there at Cape Kennedy,

and we stood
in front of the rocket

while my wife took our picture,

and we shook our hands
and we said congratulations

that we finally got Neil
on a good job at last,

and then we gave him a salute.

We didn't say goodbye.

It was more like good luck.

And he leaned over and gave me
a little peck on the cheek,

just a little bitty kiss.

And then he turned around
and was gone.

Launch Operations Manager
Paul Donnelly

wishes the crew
on the launch teams we have

good luck and godspeed.

Neil Armstrong reported back

when he received
the good wishes,

"Thank you very much.

We know it will be
a good flight."

Actually, my wife
took the movies.

I was taking 35mm shots.

Lift off, we have a lift-off,

32 minutes past the hour,
lift-off on Apollo 11.

You feel it.

Your body feels it inside.

It shakes in a way
that nothing else does.

I kept saying, "Go Neil,

go Neil, go Neil, go Neil!"

Four days later,

Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin
would arrive at the Moon.

Then they'd attempt
one of the most daring exploits

in human history.

We were certainly aware
that the nation's hopes

largely rested on us doing
the very best job we could.

And Armstrong and Aldrin
within the LM.

That will be their home
for the next 30 hours or so.

As they descended
towards the surface

in the Lunar Module...
The Eagle...

The world held its breath,
as did Mike Collins

orbiting above in Columbia,
the Command Module.

I figured that our chances
of 100% success

were about 50/50.

There were just so many things
that could go wrong.

Collins was soon proved right.

As they went around the Moon,
the bottom fell out.

We started having communication
problems and data dropout.

Then Eagle's computer began
to raise a series of alarms.

With so many computations
to make,

it had become overloaded.

The danger wasn't
the big worry, really.

It was the complexity.

I mean, nobody had ever tried
a manned rocket landing before.

Neither of us knew
what "1202" meant.

We knew where we could find
the answer,

but it was in a document
about that thick,

and you'd have to leaf
through it,

and here we are halfway down

landing on the Moon.

But there's a bunch of guys
back on Earth.

They can look it up.

In Mission Control,

the team found an answer
in 23 seconds.

"Ignore the alarm.

It's a computer glitch
caused by overloading."

Now, just 3,000 feet
above the surface,

everything hinged on the skill
of one man.

Oh, I was in my bedroom.

We were tracking it on a map

as they pointed out verbally
where they were.

Low on fuel, Armstrong still
needed a safe place to land.

It was a fairly steep slope

and it was covered
with very big rocks,

and it just wasn't
a good place to land.

The old Neil took over,

and he was focused
on doing a landing.

That was his one opportunity
in a lifetime

to make a landing on the Moon.

I wanted to make it as easy
for myself as I could.

There was a lot of concern

about coming close
to running out of fuel.

Only 30 seconds of fuel

Everything depended
on Armstrong.

I just jumped up and down

and screamed and cried
and yelled and everything.

I was in orbit of course
when they landed,

and I gave
a little sigh of relief.

For Armstrong, this was
the culmination of a career

that had constantly pushed
his flying skills and his nerve

to the limit.

It's almost as if you...

if you were going to design
the career of somebody

who was going to do the first
landing on the Moon,

I can't imagine
how you would put together

a better mix of experiences than
the ones Neil Armstrong had.

With the astronauts safely down,

press attention turned
to their wives.

From Janet,
everyone wanted to know

what Neil would say
when he first stepped outside.

Do you have any inkling
what he's going to say?

He wouldn't tell us.

When he steps out on the Moon.

No, I have no idea
what he's going to say,

but whatever he says,
I'm sure it will be worthwhile.

You need more slack, Buzz?

No... hold it just a minute.

But Armstrong had given it
some thought before,

as his brother Dean remembers.

Before he went to the Cape,

he invited me down
to be with him

and spend a little time
with him.

He said, "Why don't you and I,
when the boys go to bed,

why don't we play
a game of Risk?"

And I said,
"Well, I'd enjoy that."

We started playing Risk,

and then he slipped me
a piece of paper

and said, "Read that."

And I did.

And on that piece of paper,
there was,

"That's one small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind."

He says,
"What do you think about that?"

I said, "Fabulous."

People have had
so many different versions

of when and how Neil
thought up those words.

It was, "That's one small step
for a man."

What he said when he came back
from the flight was

that he had given some thought
to it before the mission,

but he didn't decide what to say

until he and Buzz
were on the surface of the Moon

in the Lunar Module

before they got suited up
to go outside.

I'm going to pull it now.

And we're getting a picture
on the TV.

It was somewhat difficult
to see.

I mean, we were watching
our sets like this

because we weren't quite sure
if he was coming down the step.

Okay, I'm going
to step off the LM now.

That's one small step
for a man...

one giant leap for mankind.


It was pure Neil.

I was pretty close to him
when he said that.

There you go.

He was really surprising
in how he would say

just the right thing
at the right time.

Oh, I...

It's overjoy, you know?


I've never had such great
feelings in my life.

Ain't that something!

Magnificent sight out here.

Magnificent desolation.

Finally, it began
to sink in with me.

That really is another planet.

The EVA is progressing

I believe they are setting up
the flag now.

After years of preparation,

the first two human beings
on the Moon

simply marveled
at what they were seeing.

Two and a half hours later,

the pair had climbed
back inside the Eagle.

We'd like to say, from all of us

and all the countries
in the entire world,

we think that you've done a
magnificent job up there today.

He got me there.

He got me back safe.

And I made a couple of mistakes.

Fortunately, they...
they were not that crucial,

and I'm not going
to tell you about them.

A brief period in quarantine

would be the crew's only respite
before madness erupted.

Armstrong, an aeronautical
engineer and test pilot

from small-town America,
was suddenly a celebrity.

We did New York, Chicago
and L.A. all in one day.

There was thousands
and thousands of people,

and people from windows above
and apartments and so on.

It was fabulous.

It was like nothing
I'd ever seen before in my life

or ever had done before
in my life.

The schedule was punishing,
with the astronauts placed

in the role
of international ambassadors.

With their wives, they visited
23 countries in just 45 days.

Their mission now was
to shake hands with the world,

and everyone was eager to meet
the first man on the Moon.

We went to each country,

and it would be of course
a huge welcome at the airport,

which called for a speech,

a huge luncheon or something,
which called for a speech,

and then there would be
the major state dinner,

which called for a speech!

And I always felt that Neil
had the responsibility...

The burden, if you will...

Of always saying
the perfect thing.

He was the star,
but I have to say

he had a pretty darn good
supporting cast.

This was the beginning.

This was the beginning
of it all.

But there was nothing
you could do.

I mean, these people
were just happy to see you!

One of the other
Apollo astronauts told me

that when it comes to fame,

it's like they're all
a college football team

and Neil is the only guy
in the NFL.

I mean, he was on another plane.

People wanted a piece of him.

"I either want your autograph

or I want my picture
taken with you."

And I think that
it wasn't just anyone;

it was everyone.

The intense level of intrusion
into Armstrong's life

would eventually take its toll
on him and his family.

To be out to dinner and sort of
minding your own business

and to have people, you know,
looking at you and going,

"Oh, do you know who that is?"

and coming over and, "May I
have your autograph please?"

After a while,

even if they do it
in the nicest possible way,

which many of them did,

still, it just wears you out
after a while.

And he really didn't know
what he wanted to do, also.

That was a problem.

"What am I going to do now?"

In 1971, Armstrong
resigned from NASA.

He chose instead to pursue
his first love, aircraft design,

and accepted a professorship
at the University of Cincinnati,

back in his home state.

Well, we were looking
for a place to live,

and he wanted to live
out in the country.

I guess he wanted
to escape people.

He wanted privacy.

The Armstrongs bought
this secluded farm in Ohio.

It was a radical change
of lifestyle,

and not just for Neil.

I'm not sure that Mom

really wanted the farm life,
but she did very well,

and she was a trooper.

Janet found herself
managing the farm

as Neil concentrated
on teaching.

But escaping his fame
was never going to be easy.

Whenever Neil Armstrong
came onto the campus,

there was a number of rather
interesting reactions.

Well, the first day
was rather chaotic.

As class was letting out,

the media was massed
outside the classroom,

and he did in fact push the
students out of the classroom

and then quickly closed the door

with himself
inside the classroom.

Eventually, behind
the closed doors of academia,

Armstrong found refuge from
the constant public spotlight.

I began to think of him
as simply "Neil,"

not as "Neil Armstrong,
first man on the Moon."

I just thought of him as Neil.

But outside the university,

the burden of celebrity still
sat uncomfortably with him.

He was given the credit

and he didn't think
he deserved it all.

Armstrong eventually opted
to ration interview requests,

creating the mistaken impression
that he was a recluse.

He just didn't feel the need
to notify the media

about what he was doing,
you know?

So a media recluse maybe,

but that's a completely
different thing.

In 1979, Armstrong
left the university,

becoming involved
as a business spokesman

and serving on many corporate
and philanthropic boards.

He was doing so many
different things with his time,

but they were the things
that he chose to do,

and that didn't include
living out his life

in front of a television camera.

Challenger, go at throttle up.

Roger, go at throttle up.

And in 1986,
he was appointed vice chair

of the Rogers Commission,

the committee that investigated
the tragic events

that led to the destruction
of the space shuttle Challenger.

His calendar was double-parked
all the time.

He was a workaholic,
and that was just in his DNA.

So it was, I think,
Dad's strong work ethic

and Mom's isolation on the farm

that eventually
came between them.

Janet and Neil
separated in 1990,

divorcing four years later.

I just think it sort of
opened his eyes a little bit

and made him aware that...

that he didn't have to work
all the time.

And that was very good for him.

It put him in a great position
to meet other people.

All the men have certainly,
as we say quietly, mellowed

so that they are more relaxed,
they are more ready

to just spend time
doing something just for fun.

Dr. Neil Armstrong,
ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you so much!

The method we used
to descend from orbit

to the surface
of an alien world,



But it would have been
far more efficient

and far less traumatic

if we could just be beamed down.

But Armstrong
was far less sanguine

about the direction the real
space program was taking,

and testified before Congress
in 2010.

If the leadership we have
acquired through our investment

is simply allowed to fade away,

other nations will surely
step in where we have faltered.

I saw in him

and in the other Apollo
astronauts a frustration

that here we are in the second
decade of the 21st century,

and we're still confined

to those first couple of hundred
miles above the Earth,

and I think it was a source
of frustration to him.

Armstrong turned 80 in 2010,
and to mark the occasion,

his second wife, Carol Knight,
planned a celebration.

I thought we could have
a surprise party

and it would be a lot of fun.

And I had about 250 people
on the list.

I think he was surprised.

He put on a good act
if he wasn't.

After almost everybody had left,

you know, I went up to him
and congratulated him

on his birthday and everything,

and he hugged me and he says,
"You know I love you,"

and I said, "I do too, Neil.

We go back a long ways."

He said, "Yeah, we do."

And that was the last time.

On the 7th of August, 2012,

Neil Armstrong was admitted
to the hospital

for heart surgery.

He remained there
until his death on August 25.

If there's a legacy, I think
he may have left it already.

He very much wanted
the exploration of space

to be an accomplishment
that was important

for this planet
and everyone on it.

His inspiration

to the generations
that will follow

is incalculable, I believe.

It's overwhelming to think
about how much has come

from that inspiration.

If there was something
that he could pass along

to, you know,
future generations,

I think it would be

the conviction
to do the right thing.

I mean, he went to the Moon.

He risked his life
for the nation,

and that would be reason enough
to call Neil Armstrong a hero,

but for me, the thing
that really stands out

is how he handled this role
that fate gave him

of being a world icon.

One thing,
he was true to himself.

He was the man that you saw.

That was him.