Armstrong was born and raised in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He entered Purdue University, studying aeronautical engineering, with the U.S. Navy paying his tuition under the Holloway Plan. He became a midshipman in 1949 and a naval aviator the following year. He saw action in the Korean War, flying the Grumman F9F Panther from the aircraft carrier USS Essex. After the war, he completed his bachelor's degree at Purdue and became a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He was the project pilot on Century Series fighters and flew the North American X-15 seven times. He was also a participant in the U.S. Air Force's Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs.
Armstrong was born near Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930, the son of Viola Louise (née Engel) and Stephen Koenig Armstrong. He was of German, Scots-Irish, and Scottish descent. He is a descendant of Clan Armstrong. He had a younger sister, June, and a younger brother, Dean. His father was an auditor for the Ohio state government, and the family moved around the state repeatedly, living in 16 towns over the next 14 years. Armstrong's love for flying grew during this time, having started at the age of two when his father took him to the Cleveland Air Races. When he was five or six, he experienced his first airplane flight in Warren, Ohio, when he and his father took a ride in a Ford Trimotor (also known as the "Tin Goose").
The family's last move was in 1944 and took them back to Wapakoneta, where Armstrong attended Blume High School and took flying lessons at the Wapakoneta airfield. He earned a student flight certificate on his 16th birthday, then soloed in August, all before he had a driver's license. He was an active Boy Scout and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. As an adult, he was recognized by the Scouts with their Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo Award. While flying toward the Moon on July 18, 1969, he sent his regards to attendees at the National Scout jamboree in Idaho. Among the few personal items that he carried with him to the Moon and back was a World Scout Badge.
On August 29, 1951, Armstrong saw action in the Korean War as an escort for a photo reconnaissance plane over Songjin. Five days later, on September 3, he flew armed reconnaissance over the primary transportation and storage facilities south of the village of Majon-ni, west of Wonsan. According to Armstrong, he was making a low bombing run at 350 mph (560 km/h) when 6 feet (1.8 m) of his wing was torn off after it collided with a cable that was strung across the hills as a booby trap. He was flying 500 feet (150 m) above the ground when he hit it. While there was heavy anti-aircraft fire in the area, none hit Armstrong's aircraft. An initial report to the commanding officer of Essex said that Armstrong's F9F Panther was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The report indicated he was trying to regain control and collided with a pole, which sliced off 2 feet (0.61 m) of the Panther's right wing. Further perversions of the story by different authors added that he was only 20 feet (6.1 m) from the ground and that 3 feet (0.91 m) of his wing was sheared off.
On his first day, Armstrong was tasked with piloting chase planes during releases of experimental aircraft from modified bombers. He also flew the modified bombers, and on one of these missions had his first flight incident at Edwards. On March 22, 1956, he was in a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, which was to air-drop a Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket. He sat in the right-hand co-pilot seat while pilot in command, Stan Butchart sat in the left-hand pilot seat flying the B-29.
Fellow astronaut Michael Collins wrote that of the X-15 pilots Armstrong "had been considered one of the weaker stick-and-rudder men, but the very best when it came to understanding the machine's design and how it operated". Many of the test pilots at Edwards praised Armstrong's engineering ability. Milt Thompson said he was "the most technically capable of the early X-15 pilots". Bill Dana said Armstrong "had a mind that absorbed things like a sponge". Those who flew for the Air Force tended to have a different opinion, especially people like Chuck Yeager and Pete Knight, who did not have engineering degrees. Knight said that pilot-engineers flew in a way that was "more mechanical than it is flying", and gave this as the reason why some pilot-engineers got into trouble: Their flying skills did not come naturally. Armstrong made seven flights in the X-15 between November 30, 1960, and July 26, 1962. He reached a top speed of Mach 5.74 (3,989 mph, 6,420 km/h) in the X-15-1, and left the Flight Research Center with a total of 2,400 flying hours.
On April 24, 1962, Armstrong flew for the only time with Yeager. Their job, flying a T-33, was to evaluate Smith Ranch Dry Lake in Nevada for use as an emergency landing site for the X-15. In his autobiography, Yeager wrote that he knew the lake bed was unsuitable for landings after recent rains, but Armstrong insisted on flying out anyway. As they attempted a touch-and-go, the wheels became stuck and they had to wait for rescue. As Armstrong told the story, Yeager never tried to talk him out of it and they made a first successful landing on the east side of the lake. Then Yeager told him to try again, this time a bit slower. On the second landing, they became stuck, provoking Yeager to fits of laughter.
Armstrong flew light aircraft for pleasure. He enjoyed gliders and before the moon flight had earned a gold badge with two diamonds from the International Gliding Commission. He continued to fly engineless aircraft well into his 70s.
Armstrong's family released a statement describing him as a "reluctant American hero [who had] served his nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut ... While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves. For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink." It prompted many responses, including the Twitter hashtag "#WinkAtTheMoon".
Apollo 13's mission commander, Jim Lovell, was 42 years old at the time of the spaceflight. He was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and had been a naval aviator and test pilot before being selected for the second group of astronauts in 1962; he flew with Frank Borman in Gemini 7 in 1965 and Buzz Aldrin in Gemini 12 the following year before flying in Apollo 8 in 1968, the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon. At the time of Apollo 13, Lovell was the NASA astronaut with the most time in space, with 572 hours over the three missions.
The plan was to devote the first of the two four-hour lunar surface extravehicular activities (EVAs) to setting up the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) group of scientific instruments; during the second, Lovell and Haise would investigate Cone crater, near the planned landing site. The two astronauts wore their spacesuits for some 20 walk-throughs of EVA procedures, including sample gathering and use of tools and other equipment. They flew in the "Vomit Comet" in simulated microgravity or lunar gravity, including practice in donning and doffing spacesuits. To prepare for the descent to the Moon's surface, Lovell flew the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle (LLTV). Despite four of the five LLTVs and similar Lunar Landing Research Vehicles having crashed during the Apollo program, mission commanders considered flying them invaluable experience. 2b1af7f3a8