Discovering Neil Armstrong

As the first man to ever set foot on our Moon, Neil Armstrong is a true American icon. He was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, a very small town just 2 hours away from me. As a young boy he was calm, serious and determined. For as long as he can remember he loved planes and was fascinated by flight. He even earned his pilot’s license at the age of 15, before he earned his driver’s license!

He built model planes out of everyday material and even constructed a wind tunnel in the basement of his home. In elementary school, Neil played baritone horn, read more than a hundred books, and loved both science and math.

In 1949, he joined the Navy and quickly worked his way up to the position of Naval Aviator. His passion for flying followed him everywhere. During the years of 1951-52, he flew 78 missions in the Korean War. This service earned him several military medals.

Following his leave of the Navy, he worked as an experimental research test pilot, where he flew more than 200 different models of aircraft, including modified bombers and rocket planes. Due to his skill and experience, Neil was quickly accepted into the Apollo program at NASA.

In July 1969 Neil, along with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, shot of into space, destined for the moon. On July 21, 6 hours after landing the Eagle on the moon, Neil made history and became the first man to step foot on the moon. His famous words are known by all, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The Apollo 11 crew portrait. Left to right are Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin.

Upon returning to Earth, Neil, Buzz and Mike went on a 21-country tour around the world. Since the Apollo moon landing, Neil has tried to stay out of the spotlight and live a very quiet life inIndian Hill, OH.

What did Neil think about the moon?

Although the area was very dark and gray, Neil thought the moon’s surface was beautiful.

“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

Training to be an astronaut

Neil and the other astronauts had to endure some seriously rigorous training before they went to the moon. They trained for hours in what is called The Vomit Comet, a jet that teaches what it feels like to be weightless. The men also needed spend weeks at a time in various biomes – mountain tops, deserts, rain forests. Since there was no telling where their capsule would land upon re-entry, they needed to learn how to survive anywhere.

Neil and the other men even needed to know how to operate machines that were designed to be computer-controlled. The Columbia’s landing module, nicknamed The Eagle, was supposed to be computer-controlled and maneuvered to land in a predesignated spot. However, Neil was forced to take manual control and land the Eagle himself when he discovered that the spot was too rocky to land on. He safely landed about 4 miles away.

In addition to the intense training, Neil had to travel around the country giving speeches, letting the American public put a face to Apollo program.

Have you ever thought about what would happen if we had no moon?

  • You’ve seen the craters of the moon, of course. The moon takes the majority of the hits from asteroids that would otherwise hit us.
  • Tidal interactions with the moon and sun actually slow down the Earth’s rotation. Since it is closer, the moon has far more of an impact on our rotation speed than the sun does. Without the moon, the Earth would spin MUCH faster, probably so fast that our day may only last about 6 hours!
  • Imagine having only a 6 hour long day, with only 3 hours of sunshine. Plant life would not receive enough sunlight to grow properly.
  • The faster rotation rate would cause dramatically increased winds and stronger storms.

Would you like to celebrate the moon with arts and crafts?

Styrofoam moon with LEGO Neil and Buzz on top!

I think this is one of my most favorite crafts we have ever worked on!

  • Take a Styrofoam ball and punch craters all over it using the eraser end of a pencil.
  • Paint the entire thing gray, making sure that the paint is splotchy and uneven – it will make the moon look shadowy and more natural.
  • Using salt dough and LEGO minifigure ice cube trays, create 2 little LEGO Astronauts and paint them white. The Lego minifigure mold is only $11.89 at Amazon.
  • Tape toothpicks to the back of the astronauts and stick them down into the top of the Styrofoam moon, along with a little homemade flag!

Here is a printable I created to help you learn the names for “moon” in other languages


There is an adorable little Oreo cookie moon craft going around the Internet, in which you scrape the cream in the middle of Oreos into the phases of the moon. You can see some examples at the blogs of some of my dear friends – Mary at Homegrown Learners, Jolanthe at Homeschool Creations, Maureen at Spell Outloud and Beth at Living Life Intentionally.

Coloring pages of Neil Armstrong and other important Americans



*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: A birthday celebration: Small steps and giant leaps from Neil Armstrong | Unschool RULES

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