• Apollo 11 anniversary: The crew that first landed on the moon

    By: Debbie Lord , Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:

    All three were born in 1930, and each had three children.

    All three were pilots, and they all served in the military.

    Two were Boy Scouts, and one said he is sure there is life elsewhere in the universe.

    While the crew of Apollo 11 came from different backgrounds, they shared common threads that characterized the pioneering astronauts of the 1960s. Yet the men who carried out the mission that first put a man on the moon were called “amiable strangers” by Michael Collins, Apollo 11’s Command Module pilot.

    Collins wrote in his book, “Carrying the Fire,” that he, mission commander Neil Armstrong and Lunar Module pilot Buzz Aldrin were simply men chosen to serve their country on a mission in space, and when that was over, they went on their separate ways to other careers.

    Here’s a look at the crew of Apollo 11:

    Neil Armstrong
    Armstrong was born Aug. 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio, to Stephen Armstrong, an auditor, and Viola Engel Armstrong.

    He earned his pilot’s license on his 16th birthday. According to Armstrong, he got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license.

    After graduating from high school, he earned a scholarship to Purdue, where he studied from 1947 to 1949 before he was called to active duty just before the Korean War began. During the war, he flew 78 combat missions.

    He returned to Purdue in 1952 and earned his degree in aerospace engineering in 1955. In 1970, he earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Southern California.

    From 1955 to 1962, he was a civilian test pilot at the Lewis Research Center. He later moved to California and both helped to design and test more than 200 jets, helicopters and gliders at Edwards Air Force Base in California.  

    In 1956, he married Janet Shearon, and together they had three children – Mark, Karen and Erik. Karen was diagnosed with brain cancer and died when she was 3. Neil Armstrong divorced Janet in 1994. He married Carol Knight in 1994 and was married to her at the time of his death.

    In September of 1962, Armstrong was among the second group of men chosen by NASA to be a part of the Gemini space program.

    In March of 1966, Armstrong, along with David Scott, successfully performed the first space docking between two spacecraft.

    On Sept. 17, 1962, Armstrong was part of the second group of men chosen by NASA to become astronauts.

    In July 1969, he was the command pilot for Apollo 11. On July 20, 1969, he was the first man to step on the moon.

    In 1970, he became the deputy associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA but stayed in that position only a year.

    For eight years, from 1971 to 1979, he was an engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati.
    Following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, he was named vice chairman to the Rogers Commission. The commission was charged with finding out what caused the Challenger accident.

    Armstrong was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame, received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal for Distinguished Astronauts, among numerous other honors and awards.

    He commemorated the 25th and 35th anniversaries of the moon landing at the White House.

    In August of 2012, two days after his 82nd birthday, he had heart surgery.

    On Aug. 25, 2012, Armstrong died from complications of heart surgery.

    Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

    Aldrin was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on Jan. 20, 1930, to Edwin Aldrin Sr., an oil executive who had been a pioneer in aviation, and Marion Moon Aldrin.

    He got the nickname “Buzz” after his younger sister called him “buzzer,” her pronunciation of “brother.” The nickname was eventually shortened to Buzz, and in 1988, he officially changed his name to Buzz.

    Aldrin graduated one year early from Montclair High School to attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, graduating third in his class.

    After college, he joined the Air Force in 1951 and was sent to fight in the Korean War. He flew F86 Sabre Jets in 66 combat missions in Korea and shot down two planes.

    In 1954, he married Joan Archer, and the couple had three children – James, Janice and Andrew. He divorced Joan in 1972 and married Beverly Van Zile in 1975. He divorced Van Zile and married Lois Cannon on Feb. 14, 1988. The two divorced in 2012.

    He earned a doctorate of science in astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963. His thesis was on manned orbital rendezvous.

    In 1963, he was chosen by NASA to be included in the third group of astronauts.

    He devised docking and rendezvous techniques based on his MIT thesis and created a program that simulated spacewalking by using underwater training techniques.

    Aldrin was the first person to perform a spacewalk. He did it in 1966 during the Gemini 12 orbital mission.

    He became the second man to walk on the moon as he and Armstrong landed on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.

    He has an asteroid and a moon crater named after him and appeared as himself in an episode of “The Simpsons” and the show “Numb3rs.”

    He has written nine books, including an autobiography and a children’s book.

    He has been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal and was inducted into the Astronauts Hall of Fame.

    He retired from NASA in 1971 and became commandant of the Aerospace Research Pilots School at Edwards Air Force Base. He stayed in that position for a year. During that time, he was hospitalized in San Antonio for depression and alcoholism. Depression, he says, runs in his family. He lost his mother and maternal grandfather to suicide.

    In March 1972, Aldrin retired from the Air Force as a colonel.

    In the early 90s, he patented his design for a permanent space station.

    He founded Starcraft Boosters Inc., a rocket design company, in 1996. Two years later, he founded

    ShareSpace, a nonprofit company that helps fund and promote mass-market space travel.
    In 2002, he punched journalist Bart Sibrel after Sibrel confronted Aldrin at a Beverly Hills hotel demanding Aldrin prove the moon landing was not faked.

    In 2010, he competed on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

    In 2016, he visited Antarctica but had to be evacuated when he suffered shortness of breath.

    Vice President Mike Pence named Aldrin a member of the Space Advisory Committee.

    Michael Collins

    Collins was born Oct. 31, 1930, in Rome, Italy, to James Lawton Collins, a U.S. Army Major General, and Virginia Stewart Collins.

    He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a bachelor’s degree in military science in 1952 and earned an advanced management degree from Harvard University in 1974.

    He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1952 until 1970, retiring as a major general.

    He married Patricia Finnegan in 1957, and the couple remained married until her death in 2014. They had three children – Michael, Ann and Kathleen.

    He was a Navy test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base from 1960 to 1963. In October of 1963, he was chosen by NASA as part of the third group of men to be astronauts.

    He piloted the Command Module while Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. During his career, he flew in space twice. He was the third American to walk in space.

    Collins says he believes in extraterrestrials.

    He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, received the Congressional Gold Medal for Distinguished Astronauts and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

    After retiring from NASA in 1970, he served assistant secretary of state for public affairs for one year.

    From 1971 to 1978, he was the director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

    From 1980 to 1985, he was vice president of LTV Aerospace & Defense Company.

    He founded Michael Collins Associates, a Washington, D.C., aerospace consulting firm.

    He celebrated the 25th, 35th and 45th anniversaries of the moon landing at the White House.

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