Thoughts on Neil Armstrong

These days a lot of people seem to be inspired by musicians and actors, perhaps an athlete from the recent olympics. I find myself in a different boat, inspired by people who achieved their great moments long before I was even born. I find myself inspired by people like Newton, Kepler, Feynman, Sagan and Armstrong.

I recall, many years ago when I was younger, having a CD-ROM of, I think, the encyclopaedia Britannica. It contained a wealth of interesting information. I remember one such aspect of it where you could play around with the Moon’s orbit. A great, unbeknown to me, celestial mechanics lesson. There was also a small section on the Moon landings. I could watch Neil Armstrong’s first steps over and over. And I did. I was enthralled.

Years later my interest and passion for space had developed. I began to truly understand what the Moon landing’s were about, the great energy and determination behind them, the huge risks involved and the human need to explore.

For me, the Moon landings have shown me more about what it is to be human more than anything, and it all began with Neil’s first small step.

Even today when I watch footage of the Moon landings, I feel shivers creeping up my spine, sometimes even a tear develops in the corner of my eye. It’s almost a non-religious numinous experience. I just fill with awe over the grandeur of it all. We really did this, I have to say to myself.

Neil Armstrong

So I was incredibly shocked and saddened to hear about the loss of Neil Armstrong on the 25th August. He had inspired me and many millions of people across the planet. He was a reluctant hero but he embodies the true human spirit of adventure and exploration, and for that, thank you, Neil.

We can hope now that this sad news spurs on our next great adventure, that it enthuses another generation of people to learn STEM subjects and that it urges politicians to develop the worldwide space effort.

I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings on Neil Armstrong, and if you’d like to share them, please leave a comment below.

There’s a great many literature on the Apollo missions and they’re a great read. There’s a lot I never knew about Apollo that is fascinating. I’ve recently finished Failure Is Not An Option and Apollo 13. I’ve also recently ordered A Man on the Moon, that I understand is the best Apollo book around. You should also check out the great TV series’ From the Earth to the Moon and NASA’s Greatest Missions: When We Left Earth and the film documentaries Moonwalk One and In the Shadow of the Moon.

Thanks again Neil

12 men walked on the surface of the Moon.
No one has returned or ventured farther.



Rare Interview: An Audience with Neil Armstrong

An Audience with Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong very rarely gives interviews, so this is something pretty special. This is a 4 part interview (each 15 minutes long) discussing different aspects of the space race and Neil Armstrong’s involvement in it. There aren’t many of these around so sit back and enjoy. He’s really a joy to listen too.

Click here for the interviews

Book Review: Rocket Man

Rocket Man

This is only the second book about the Apollo era that I have read. And it’s a slightly different theme to Apollo 13 (or Lost Moon). They’re both similar in the respect that it’s two pilots pursuing their love for aviation and wanting to be at the cutting edge of the frontier. But Apollo 13 is about a mans dream to walk on the surface of the Moon and that dream being cruelly ripped away from him. Apollo 13, I felt went into detail about how the spacecraft worked and on the difficulties of getting to the Moon (and back). ‘Rocket Man’ couldn’t be anymore different.

Throughout the book we follow the much more recent story of N10BD, a Learjet 35, where Pete Conrad is one of the pilots trying to break the world record for a round the world flight in the shortest time. It was a bit strange to have it there, but it appeared to work and fitted in with the rest of the book.

The book goes back a long time. All the way back to the 1700’s where we see how Pete’s family came to be in America, how they flourished, and eventually how it all went downhill. The story is more about Pete’s personal love of aviation and engineering than anything else, and I was particularly shocked as to how little there was on him actually being on the Moon and generally on the Apollo program itself.

The subtitle of the book is ‘Astronaut Pete Conrad’s Incredible Ride To The Moon And Beyond’ and it really is beyond. We learn that Apollo 12 was, to him, not the greatest achievement to him as an astronaut. We learn about the Skylab program, how he was one of the stations architects, how he fixed the thing when it broke in space and how he lived on it for a month.

Towards the end of the book we see the sad side-effects of the life Pete Conrad lived. After being constantly busy, working 70-odd hour weeks for 20+ years, he realised he doesn’t know his family (a situation seemingly familiar with most Apollo astronauts). He ends up divorcing his wife and watches his youngest child by of cancer.

He goes to work for McDonnell Douglas, promoting and test flying their DC-10 and being involved in the investigation after one fatally crashed, grounding the entire fleet. He then moves on to private industry, and how it is they, not NASA, that need to lead the way in space. And he sets off on his own voyage to achieve this.

I found this book extremely interesting and enjoyable. Pete’s vibrant and colourful persona comes across easily, and it’s a funny read. The only issues I have is that the chapters are bizarrely short, something I’ve not come across before (there are nearly 60) and each contains about a maximum of 5 pages. I found this bizarre and unnecessary. Still, a great read, and highly recommended. Lacking in the details on the space program itself, this remains a great book.