Neil Armstrong, former research pilot, astronaut and first man to set foot on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, was recently honored posthumously by the Flight Test Historical Foundation with the foundation's Eagle Award for his contributions to flight research as an engineer and pilot.
Armstrong, who died Aug. 25, 2012, was the sole recipient of this year's Eagle award that was presented at the foundation's annual event, the Gathering of Eagles, in Lancaster, Calif., Oct. 13. Former NACA "human computer" Betty Love, who had been a close friend of Armstrong and his family while both were employed by the NACA High-Speed Flight Station and Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, accepted the gold Eagle pin on behalf of the Armstrong family. Love regaled the crowd with personal stories of working and carpooling with Armstrong in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
David McBride, director of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, offered remarks about Armstrong's contributions to aeronautics prior to his becoming a NASA astronaut, including piloting the X-1B, X-5 and X-15 research aircraft during a seven-year stint as a research engineer and test pilot at NASA Dryden's predecessor organizations at Edwards.
" 'That's one small step for (a) man. One giant leap for mankind' – With that quotation, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong will be remembered as long as man keeps history," McBride reflected.
"In the troubled times of 1969, civil rights and the war in Vietnam were tearing the nation apart," he recalled. "Neil brought the nation and world together with an achievement for all mankind. He did this as no other man could. He did this with grace and humility."
McBride noted that despite Armstrong's status as an American icon for being the first man to set foot on the moon, he considered himself first and foremost as an engineer and pilot.
"I have had many opportunities to work with Neil and hear him speak over the last few years," McBride said. "He would always rather speak of his time here, and the contributions he made to aeronautics rather than his Apollo mission.
"Always, and to the end, he was a passionate advocate for NASA, human space flight and aeronautics," he added.
McBride's remarks were followed by a tribute video titled: Neil Armstrong, 1955-1962 "The Real Right Stuff."
The Flight Test Historical Foundation supports the Air Force Flight Test Center museum located on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Beth Hagenauer, public affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center