“Astronauts Armstrong, hop, skip, jump”

This article originally appeared in the print edition of the 1969 Summer Trojan.

“Three-hundred feet. Down 3 ½, 47 forward. One minute, 1 ½ down, 70. Altitude velocity light. 15 forward. Coming down nicely. Two-hundred feet…

“Down 2 ½. Forward. Kicking up some dust. Big shadow. For 4 forward; 4 forward drifting to the right a little. Down one-half. Thirty seconds.”

And then, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” These were the words Command Pilot Neil Armstrong, one-time graduate student at USC, spoke a she stepped onto the surface of the moon Sunday to explore its bleak, forbidding crust in man’s first visit to another celestial body. The time was 7:56 p.m., PDT, as he swung his left boot to the surface of the moon to become the first man to set foot on the lunar surface.

About 20 minutes later Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. followed Armstrong’s path down the ladder from the spaceship Eagle and began collecting rocks to bring back to earth.

The third of the three-men Apollo crew was waiting and listening in lunar orbit. Michael Collins, command module pilot, has but one major duty — to keep Apollo 11 orbiting the moon.

Then came the Kangaroo Hop. Armstrong and Aldrin may have touched off the latest fad in dancing as they took advantage of losing 5/6ths of their weight and began testing the moon’s gravitational pull.

Armstrong could have missed his destiny — to become the first man to set foot on the moon — as the result of half a dozen close calls.

In Korea he crashed his Panther jet behind enemy lines, but escaped a day later.

As a civilian pilot in 1962, he plummeted uncontrollably toward earth in his X-15 when the rocket engine failed to start, but it caught on just in time.

As commander of Gemini 8 in 1966, he had to abort the scheduled three-day flight after ten hours when a short circuit threw the spacecraft’s thrusters out of control.

Last summer he had to eject from a lunar-landing research vehicle at an altitude of only 100ft. when it spun out of control and crashed.

Buzz Aldrin might have never become an astronaut at all but for his persistence, determination and good fortune.

He was turned down when he first applied in 1962. NASA regulations at the time demanded that astronauts be graduate test pilots. Aldrin was a veteran fighter pilot (two MIGs destroyed, one damaged in 66 Korean missions for the Air Force).

The next year, after the regulations had been eased to let in combat pilots with more than 1,000 hours of experience flying jets, Aldrin was accepted.

Michael Collins owes his couch on the moonship to bad health. He was to have been a member of the Apollo 8 crew, which made man’s first orbits around the moon last Christmas. A paralyzing bone spur in the neck sent him to the hospital in June, 1968, for a risky operation. Bill Anders took his place. The surgery was a complete success, and Collins was back on full flight status by last November. It was much too late for him to resume his original place with the Apollo 8 crew — but it meant he would join the Apollo 11.

Searching back through the files in the registrar’s office here, one can stumble across the name Neil Armstrong. It seems that while he was a civilian test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base from 1955-60, Armstrong took graduate courses in engineering which USC professors taught at the base. Armstrong completed almost all requirements for a master’s degree in engineering for USC before he was transferred from the base.

And so, once again USC identifies with a national fete — a fete for all of mankind. Pat Nixon, Herb Klein, Ron Zeigler, Walter Schirra, and now Neil Armstrong. Who next will descend on the world from the halls of Troy?

1 reply
  1. Walt F.
    Walt F. says:

    I remember as a student attending a session in Bovard auditorium to hear Neil Armstrong deliver an oral presentation of a paper he had written on how to land the lunar module. I’ve always wondered, who graded his paper?

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