Sunday 27 September 2015

"The Eagle Has Landed" Earns Armstrong Fame

"We want to thank you for being so brave and walking on the moon.  We are proud that you are from Ohio." (Traci-Lea Barnardo)

In 1970, one month before the first anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, a grade 1 student from Ohio penned a letter to Neil Armstrong.  "We want to thank you for being so brave and walking on the moon," opens the letter.  "We are proud that you are from Ohio."  The letter now sits in a file at Purdue University, one of 70,000 letters, cards and autograph requests received by the first man on the moon. (

Traci-Lea Barnardo was one of 600 million spectators to watch Neil Armstrong set his boot on the lunar surface in July of 1969.  It was one of those moments where everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing.  "Parents huddled with their children in front of the family television set, mesmerized by what they were witnessing.  Farmers abandoned their nightly milking duties, and motorists pulled off the highway and checked into hotels just to see the moonwalk."

Neil Armstrong, along with his fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, quickly entered the American lexicon.  A ticker tape parade, at which 4 million spectators were in attendance, was held in their honour in August of 1969.  Interviews and speaking engagements became part of the astronauts' routine.  Dozens of American elementary, middle and high schools adopted the name Neil Armstrong.  

However, Neil Armstrong did not embrace the limelight.  "I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer," he protested.  From the time he was a little boy, he wanted to fly. In 1936, he took his first ride in an airplane nicknamed the Tin Goose.  At 16, he earned his pilot's licence.  Armstrong received a degree in aeronautical engineering from Purdue University and flew 78 missions in the Korean War.  

Yet it wasn't his 78 mission flights in Korea that earned Armstrong his fame.  It was his one flight to the moon and the four words:  "The Eagle has landed."

New York City ticker tape parade for Apollo 11 astronauts circa August 1969 courtesy

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