ByVaria Fedko-Blake, writer at
Staff Writer at Moviepilot! [email protected] Twitter: @vfedkoblake
Varia Fedko-Blake

As it stands, it almost seems that anything director Damien Chazelle touches these days immediately turns to Hollywood gold. And following his spectacular run at the Academy Awards over the last few years with Whiplash and La La Land, he's ready to strike again and this time, it's a movie of a completely different calibre.

Universal has confirmed that Chazelle will be teaming up with to bring to life the story behind Neil Armstrong, the first member of the human race to walk on the moon.

[Credit: Summit Entertainment/WikiCommons]
[Credit: Summit Entertainment/WikiCommons]

Landing just in time for the 2018 awards season, the script of biopic will be based on James Hansen's highly-acclaimed biography of the legendary astronaut and will span the years 1961-1968. Yet, how much do we actually know about the man behind NASA's most iconic mission to date? Read on to find out the true story behind upcoming movie First Man below.

The True Story Behind The First Man Movie:

A High Achiever From The Very Start

Born in the small town of Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1930, Neil Armstrong had a vibrant career before he joined the astronaut program in 1962. Previously, he had already served in the Korean War and clocked in 78 military combat flights, earned an engineering degree at Purdue University, tested high-speed aircraft for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later to become NASA) and completed a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California.

Neil Armstrong standing next to the X-15 ship [Credit: WikiCommons]
Neil Armstrong standing next to the X-15 ship [Credit: WikiCommons]

In 1962, after years of being a research pilot and engineer in the U.S. Air Force's human spaceflight programs, Armstrong applied and was officially selected to join the NASA Astronaut Corps.

The Gemini VIII

Moving to the base in Houston, Texas, with his wife Janet and his children, he went on to serve as a commander for his first mission into space aboard the Gemini VIII. Launching into the atmosphere on the vessel on March 16, 1966, for the first time, Armstrong became the first American civilian in space alongside pilot David Scott and the first astronaut to perform a successful docking of two vehicles.

However, it was during this maneuver that complications arose. Just 11 hours into the mission, Armstrong and Scott lost control of the 6,000 pound Gemini spacecraft, which was moving at 17,500 mph and began dangerously turning at approximately one turn per second. To prevent the spin, the astronauts had to use some of their re-entry control fuel, plummeting back to Earth where they and their vessel was recovered from the Pacific Ocean.

'It's In The Nature Of The Human Being To Face Challenges'

Thankfully, a close brush with death did not deter the space engineer from pursuing other missions. A few years later, and after already spearheading six flights as part of Project Apollo, Armstrong soon faced an even greater challenge than the Gemini malfunction. Alongside Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, he formed the trio that would make up NASA's first manned mission to the Moon, fulfilling John F. Kennedy's 1961 challenge to the United States:

"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. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin [Credit: WikiCommons]
Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin [Credit: WikiCommons]

As the head commander of the mission, NASA management went on to determine that Armstrong would be the first person to step foot on Earth's only permanent natural satellite. On July 16, 1969, after years of training, before blasting off into the atmosphere, Armstrong said the following words at a preflight news conference:

"I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul. We're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream."

'That's One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Mankind'

After landing successfully on the Moon three days later and at precisely 2:56 UTC on July 21, the Lunar Module opened and Armstrong planted his left foot on the lunar soil, pronouncing the following words to half a billion people listening intently back on Earth below:

"I'm going to step off the LEM now. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

20 minutes later, Aldrin joined him (Collins stayed behind orbiting on the main Apollo 11 spaceship) and together, they spend the next two hours collecting rock samples, setting up experiments and taking extraordinary images of the Moon's surface — both also took a phone call from President Nixon. Later, Armstrong would go on to explain that it wasn't the actual moon walk that excited him the most. On the contrary, it was the landing:

"The exciting part for me, as a pilot, was the landing on the moon. That was the time that we had achieved the national goal of putting Americans on the moon. The landing approach was, by far, the most difficult and challenging part of the flight. Walking on the lunar surface was very interesting, but it was something we looked on as reasonably safe and predictable. So the feeling of elation accompanied the landing rather than the walking."

On July 24, 1969, the Apollo 11 spacecraft brought the trio home, dropping them west of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. And after being picked up, Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were placed into quarantine for three weeks to ensure they had not picked up any infections from the Moon. During this time, they conducted hundreds of interviews all over the world, embarking on a global trip to visit nations all over the world — including the Soviet Union — upon being released.

Life After Apollo 11

Despite being welcomed back as American heroes and being given numerous medals for his brave contributions to the United States, Neil Armstrong soon announced that he would not be heading back into space ever again. Instead, he took up the position of Depute Associate Administrator for aeronautics at NASA, before altogether resigning from the organization in 1971 to take up a professorship at the University of Cincinnati.

Ultimately, despite being skyrocketed to the status of one of the most legendary engineers of the 20th century, a private existence out of the limelight is what Armstrong really desired. After remaining committed to space education and exploration for the rest of his life career, he died at the age of 82 during a heart bypass operation in 2012 — a moment which saw the world bid farewell to a great American hero, a man whose words and wisdom continues to resonate with us to this day:

"There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth's protective layers. There are places to go beyond belief."

Were you already familiar with the true story behind First Man?

(Source: ABC, Biography)

[Image credit: WikiCommons]


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