Astronaut Neil Armstrong is best known for his address on the moon: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” While his footsteps linger on the lunar surface and his name remains etched below the American flag, Neil Armstrong himself would soon return to Earth and share his experiences with the world. His quotes are inspiring to scientists of all ages, as well as anyone who has ever dreamed of accomplishing the impossible.
“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” While this informative quote may not resonate with a wordsmith, it sent chills down the spines of everyone watching the moon landing in 1969. Neil Armstrong’s reflections about the lunar landing would continue to resonate for generations.
“I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul ... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream.” - Apollo mission press conference, 1969
“I thought, well, when I step off it's just going to be a little step — a step from there down to there — but then I thought about all those 400,000 people who had given me the opportunity to make that step and thought it's going to be a big something for all those folks and, indeed for a lot of others that weren't even involved in the project, so it was kind of a simple correlation.” - 60 Minutes interview, 2005
“[The moon] is an interesting place to be. I recommend it.” - 60 Minutes interview, 2005
“Pilots take no special joy in walking: Pilots like flying. Pilots generally take pride in a good landing, not in getting out of the vehicle.” - quoted in In the Shadow of the Moon: A Challenging Journey to Tranquility
“Neil, we missed the whole thing.” - Comment about being in space while America celebrated the moon landing, quoted in First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong
“The landing approach was, by far, the most difficult and challenging part of the flight. Walking on the lunar surface was very interesting, but it was something we looked on as reasonably safe and predictable. So the feeling of elation accompanied the landing rather than the walking.” - Interview at The New Space Race, 2007
“I remember on the trip home on Apollo 11 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.” - quoted in The People’s Almanac, 1975
“There was a peculiar sensation of the duality of time — the swift rush of events that characterizes all our lives — and the ponderous parade which marks the aging of the universe. Both kinds of time were evident — the first, by the routine events of the flight, whose planning and execution were detailed to fractions of a second — the latter by rocks around us, unchanged throughout the history of man — whose 3-billion-year-old secrets made them the treasure we sought.” - Address at Joint Meeting of the Two Houses of Congress to Receive the Apollo 11 Astronauts, 1969
Armstrong’s connection to and appreciation for science was infused throughout his life. He had a unique ability to contextualize technology with both awe and discernment.
“I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer — born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow. As an engineer, I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.” - “The Engineered Century” speech, 2000
“The twentieth century was often punctuated with the terror of war and darkened with societal struggles to overcome injustice. But it was also the first century in which technology enabled the tenets and the images of those traumas to reach across the world and touch people in ways that were previously unimagined.” - “The Engineered Century” speech, 2000
“Science fiction writers thought it would be possible. H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and other authors found ways to get people to the moon. But none of those writers foresaw any possibility of the lunar explorers being able to communicate with Earth, transmit data, position information, or transmit moving pictures of what they saw back to Earth. The authors foresaw my part of the adventure, but your part was beyond their comprehension.” - Letter to Honeysuckle Creek Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, 2009
“Engineers are dedicated to solving problems and creating new, useful, and efficient things. So should not the world admire and respect them? Answer: Only occasionally.” - “The Engineered Century” speech, 2000
“Science has not mastered prophesy. We predict too much for the next year yet far too little for the next ten.” - Address at Joint Meeting of the Two Houses of Congress to Receive the Apollo 11 Astronauts, 1969
Armstrong spoke to children and fellow explorers throughout his life. He emphasized the value of education, ambition and the American spirit.
“I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks but for the ledger of our daily work.” - 60 Minutes interview, 2005
“America means opportunity. It started that way. The early settlers came to the new world for the opportunity to worship in keeping with their conscience, and to build a future on the strength of their own initiative and hard work … They discovered a new life with freedom to achieve their individual goals.” - “What America Means to Me,” The Reader’s Digest, 1975
“Through books you will meet poets and novelists whose creations will fire your imagination. You will meet the great thinkers who will share with you their philosophies, their concepts of the world, of humanity and of creation. You will learn about events that have shaped our history, of deeds both noble and ignoble. All of this knowledge is yours for the taking. It is something you will have always and that will grow in sharing.” - Letter to the Children of Troy, 1971
“Knowledge is fundamental to all human achievement and progress. It is both the key and the quest that advances mankind. The search for knowledge is what brought men to the moon; but it took knowledge already acquired to make it possible to get there.” - Letter to the Children of Troy, 1971
“Truly, it has been a magical century.” - “The Engineered Century” speech, 2000
Neil Armstrong’s role in the Space Race came at an important time in American history. For more on this fascinating period, check out: