Neil Armstrong: Never the showman, always the astronaut

Neil believed descending and landing from his spacecraft to the moon was the real accomplishment- not the moonwalk.

Noman Ansari August 28, 2012
Ask any serious sci-fi fan, and they will tell you that the most compelling piece of science fiction has a strong element of plausibility. If you can suspend your disbelief long enough to believe that the fiction you are consuming is within the realms of possibility, then your imagination’s immersion within that universe is likely to be deeper.

In that sense, science fiction fans have much to thank the people at NASA for, who in bringing about the moon landing, unshackled the gates of imagination for the minds of countless, including myself.

Although I was born 11 years after American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Lightyear...err… Buzz Aldrin became the first men to set foot on the moon, the mere mention of their names was enough to get me excited. The gentlemanly Neil Armstrong especially, was a hero for me. Not only was he the first man on the moon, an aerospace engineer, and a former Navy pilot, but he also carried an abnormally masculine last name, which appealed to me as a geeky boy.

Armstrong was the commander of the NASA crew that finally landed on the moon on July 20th 1969, after then President John F Kennedy made it an American goal to do so before the Soviet Union, which with satellite Sputnik, had been the first to reach space over a decade previously.

When Armstrong announced that his first step on the moon was a giant leap for mankind, he wasn’t kidding. Suddenly, the scope of possibilities for human achievement seemed endless. This wasn’t one of our greatest achievements but our greatest achievement. We had put a man on the moon, and could now do anything.

Just to give you an idea of the astronomical distance Neil Armstrong covered to reach the only natural satellite (Yes, the Moon), of our planet Earth, I refer you to this Info Graphic designed by the BBC, which is an absolute pleasure to use.

Sadly, there isn’t a discussion you can have about Neil Armstrong without conspiracy theorists talking about the moon landing having been faked. The first thing they will point to is the politically charged space race between the Soviet Union and The United States, and how it was crucial for the latter to win, which was motive enough for them to have faked it. By that logic alone, it would seem that anyone with anything imperative to achieve would cheat, and that no one would be earning anything through hard work.

Then, there are others who point out to the fact that man hasn’t been on the moon since, as evidence that Neil Armstrong’s landing was faked. On the contrary, I believe that this is further evidence that the landing was real.

Anything that is fake, is cheaper to achieve, and thus can be replicated endlessly if needed, for showboating. But, Neil Armstrong’s moon landing was a supremely expensive scientific expedition, where his team collected data. What need did mankind have to fund more such expensive expeditions? Let me put it this way. The Mars Curiosity rover, part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) space probe, recently landed on the red planet, in a project said to have cost about USD 2.5 billion. How many of us realistically expect this expensive project to be regularly repeated in our lifetimes, when there are no further scientific benefits, and the rest of outer space beckons?

For irrefutable evidence that these conspiracy theories are patently incorrect, simply refer to episode 104 of Mythbusters, which using science, busts these crackpot theories quite easily.

Interestingly enough, a conspiracy theorist armed with a camera crew, approached Buzz Aldrin, accusing him of lying to the world. What he embarrassingly earned was a strong punch from the old man, which was vindictive enough to answer the young man’s queries.


But Aldrin’s cavalier response in that video shouldn’t surprise anyone, especially those at NASA, who when deciding on which of the two astronauts should be the iconic first man on the moon, decided on Armstrong for his noble personality, and leader like selfless qualities.

NASA official, Christopher C Kraft Jr., talks about this in his autobiography,
"Did we think Buzz was the man who would be our best representative to the world, the man who would be legend? Neil Armstrong, reticent, soft-spoken and heroic, was our only choice.”

To give the readers of this blog a better idea of Armstrong’s great character, behind the scenes, Neil believed that descending and landing from his spacecraft to the moon, rather than the actual moonwalk, was the real accomplishment. Ever the astronaut, Neil looked at the space mission from the perspective of scientific achievement, rather than showmanship.

Whichever way one looks at it, Neil Armstrong will be remembered in history as one of the greatest people to have ever lived on this planet. Personally, I’d like to think that at this moment in time, he is on an even more elevated plane than the moon. For the readers of this blog trying to think of a way to honour his memory, a statement released by his family may help you leap in the right direction.

“For those who may ask what they can do to honour 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.”

Read more by Noman here or follow him on Twitter @pugnate
Noman Ansari The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Noman Ansari | 11 years ago | Reply Pwned by Hassan. Well done.
Hassaan Anis | 11 years ago | Reply @Appollo Hoax: You seem to be ignoring the fact that I told you to go seek answers for yourself, because the burden of proof is on the person who makes the claim that goes against general consensus - you should seek out the answers that I clearly told you are there. Also, Agha Waqar claims to be an engineer, that doesn't preclude him from being a fraud. Similarly, there are many astronomers and physicists who fall into that category. Why don't you ask the more prominent and celebrated ones? Or are they also, in your delusional universe, in on the conspiracy? The crux of my argument lies in common sense, something I sense conspiracy theorists seem to lack. The simple rule of any secret is this: The more people that are privy to a conspiracy, the less likely the conspiracy is to be true. The Apollo missions involved the participation of at least 3 countries, and over 400,000 people. If you only count the people in the mission task-forces, in the white house, state department and radio/imagery observatories, that number still measures in the thousands. If all 6 apollo missions that involved men who walked on the moon were faked, there is no possible way this conspiracy would not have been outed by one of the thousands who were privy to the truth. Also take into account the fact that Armstrong and Aldrin were not the last people to walk on the moon. 10 other NASA astronauts walked, skipped, hopped, played golf, and drove on the moon after them. If you really want specific answers to your questions, here is a short version. The Russian N-1 extra orbital launch vehicle program was an utter disaster. Go read about it. The Americans beat them to the moon with the Saturn-V, and once they did, there was no point in going up - considering how prohibitively expensive and objectively useless it was in the bigger picture. The Russians put their budget towards Salyut-1, the first space station. A much more useful achievement in the space race all things considered. The expensiveness and uselessness of a manned trip to the moon is why no other country thought it practical to go up there after twelve Americans had already been. The flag is moving because there is no atmosphere on the moon. If the flag is moved in any way (e.g. while putting it into the ground) it will keep moving until an external force acts on it to stop it (Newton's first law). Since there is no atmosphere, there is no air resistance, since there is no air resistance, the flag keeps moving. QED. Simple calculations can be done, and have been done, (I am not going to do them here, look them up), to describe human and vehicular motion at 0.17 G. The footage from the moon correlates perfectly with these calculations. You have never experienced that level of gravity, thus anything you claim about it is irrelevant and incorrect unless you do the math. Several images have been taken of multiple Apollo landing sites using the LRO and the Hubble Space Telescope. The limited resolving power of earth based telescopes and the optical interference of our atmosphere makes it highly improbable to resolve images capable of displaying the Apollo landing sites. The astronauts suffered low exposure in the Van Allen belts due to the short period of time spent flying through them in the heavily-shielded Command Module. In fact, the astronauts' overall exposure was dominated by solar particles once outside the earth's magnetic field. The total radiation received by the astronauts varied from mission to mission but was measured to be between 0.16 and 1.14 rads, much less than the standard of five rem per year set by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission for people who work with radioactivity. (Source: Bailey, J. Vernon. "Radiation Protection and Instrumentation". Biomedical Results of Apollo.) This link leads to my favorite and most conclusive mathematical demonstration of why a massive crater would not be formed by the Lunar Lander's EDL thrusters. Dude.. Lunar Meteorites. They're nothing new. The moon-rocks found in Antarctica were from the moon, because lunar meteorites, however rare, do exist. That does not, by any means, prove that the rocks brought back on the Apollo missions were not from the moon. No matter how much you may want to fight it, science can not be fooled. Not for very long at least. Please, educate yourself. Learn to appreciate man's accomplishments, and let them inspire you to reach for greater pursuits. Aristotle would smack you over the head for quoting him like that. He would be the first one to let the science talk to the veracity of the matter. As a physicist and avid novice astronomer, my conviction is based on science, and not on the nationality of the people involved in making that science happen.
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