Great Explorers: Neil Armstrong
Author: Jim Ollhoff
Publisher: ABDO Publishing Company, 2014
Age: 9-15, Middle Grade Nonfiction
Neil Armstrong was a great American hero. His legacy today as the first person to walk on the moon continues to inspire the most ardent of dreamers. “There was a feeling that if people could do that,” Ollhoff writes, “they could do anything.” Ollhoff describes Neil Armstrong as a modest, quiet man, but whose talents and achievements as a military pilot and aeronautical engineer, placed him in a unique position in history.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were engaged in the Cold War. The Soviet Union had just sent a man into space, and the U.S. was worried about losing control of the space frontier. In 1961 President Kennedy made landing a man on the moon a U.S. goal within the next ten years. Armstrong was accepted into NASA’s Gemini space program as an astronaut the following year.
Ollhoff describes the training process and command decisions that demonstrated Armstrong’s skill in controlling a spacecraft. In one example, two ships had spun out of control. His intelligent response and quick action saved the lives of everyone on board. Armstrong was subsequently selected into the Apollo space program, which included many missions, one of which eventually went to the moon.
On July 19, 1969, Apollo 11 had reached its destination and was orbiting around the moon. A lunar module, the Eagle, was launched with Armstrong at the controls. It landed on the lunar surface and Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Over television, he uttered the now-famous words: “That’s one small step for a man. One giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong went on to have a full career, teaching and lending his expertise to NASA and the aviation industry. Ollhoff also describes Armstrong’s equally impressive early years and personal life. Model airplanes and books about flying were long his interest as a young boy. Timeline, Glossary and Index are provided.
Great Explorers is a light introduction to the history of the space program and the life of Neil Armstrong. Designed to inspire, the story certainly does that. Personally, the moon landing is still a major event in my lifetime. On the day of the landing in 1969, I was at the switchboard working as a telephone operator in Tacoma, Washington. News came over the air on TV that the Eagle had landed. There must have been fifty or more of us working the switchboard that day. One by one we took turns taking breaks so we could run to the break room and watch the exciting news. The transmission was poor, in black and white, but the message was loud and clear.
We had landed a man on the moon!