He had the ability to awe current astronauts.
Logsdon recalled Armstrong making an impromptu visit in 2006 to Ellington Field to greet the crew of STS-121. They had just returned from their mission to the International Space Station.
"It is impossible to capture their surprise and excitement as they walked off their plane to find an American hero there to greet them," Logsdon said.
Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, on a farm near Wapakoneta in western Ohio. He took his first airplane ride at age 6 and developed a fascination with aviation that prompted him to build model airplanes and conduct experiments in a homemade wind tunnel.
As a boy, he worked at a pharmacy and took flying lessons. He was licensed to fly at 16, before he got his driver's license.
Armstrong enrolled in Purdue University to study aeronautical engineering but was called to duty with the U.S. Navy in 1949 and flew 78 combat missions over Korea.
After the war, Armstrong got his degree from Purdue and later earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California. He became a test pilot with what became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, piloting more than 200 kinds of aircraft from gliders to jets.
He was accepted into NASA's second astronaut class in 1962. After the first space docking, he brought the capsule back in an emergency landing in the Pacific Ocean when a wildly firing thruster kicked it out of orbit.
Armstrong was backup commander for the Apollo 8 mission at Christmas time in 1968. In that flight, Commander Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell and Bill Anders circled the moon 10 times, paving the way for the lunar landing seven months later.
Largest audience ever
Aldrin said he and Armstrong were not prone to free exchanges of sentiment.
"But there was that moment on the moon, a brief moment, in which we sort of looked at each other and slapped each other on the shoulder ... and said, 'We made it. Good show,' or something like that," Aldrin recalled.
An estimated 600 million people -- a fifth of the world's population -- watched and listened to the landing, the largest audience for any single event in history.
Parents huddled with their children in front of the family television, mesmerized by what they were witnessing. Farmers abandoned their nightly milking duties, and motorists pulled off the highway and checked into motels just to see the moonwalk.
Campers in California without television ran to their cars to listen on the radio. Boy Scouts at a camp in Michigan watched on a generator-powered television supplied by a parent.
Afterward, people walked out of their homes and gazed at the moon, in awe of what they had just seen on the TV screen. Others peeked through telescopes in hopes of spotting the astronauts.
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were given ticker-tape parades in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, and later made a 22-nation world tour.
In 1970, Armstrong was appointed deputy associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA, but left the next year to teach aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
He remained there until 1979, and during that time bought a 310-acre farm near Lebanon, where he raised cattle and corn. He stayed out of public view, accepting few requests for interviews or speeches.
In 2000, when he agreed to announce the top 20 engineering achievements of the 20th century as voted by the National Academy of Engineering, Armstrong said there was one disappointment relating to his moon walk.
"I can honestly say -- and it's a big surprise to me -- that I have never had a dream about being on the moon," he said.
The Associated Pres contributed to this report.
(c)2012 the Houston Chronicle
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