NASA successfully completed their Apollo 11 mission to the Moon 50 years ago this month, with Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to walk on the Lunar surface. The monumental event on July 20, 1969, brought the world to a standstill as millions watched anxiously on live TV, before Armstrong delivered his legendary “one small step” speech that marked the end of the Space Race with the Soviet Union. However, what many do not know is the heartbreaking secret reason why Armstrong was spurred on to lead the line.
Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
It was during this time he married his first wife Janet Sharon and had three children – Eric, Mark and Karen.
However, in June 1961, Armstrong’s only daughter was sadly diagnosed with a malignant tumour of the middle part of her brain stem and she passed away a year later.
Mrs Armstrong revealed during Altitude Film’s upcoming release “Armstrong” how it shook her family.
She said: “When Neil was still working [in the Air Force] Karen developed a tumour in her brain before she was three.
“Neil missed her dearly.
“After Karen died I was ready to go anywhere, I thought a change would be good.
“Neil finally decided he would try for this space programme and they accepted.”
In April 1962, NASA announced that applications were being sought for Project Gemini, a proposed two-man spacecraft.
Armstrong visited the Seattle World’s Fair in May 1962 and attended a conference there on space exploration that was co-sponsored by NASA.
After he returned from Seattle on June 4, he applied to become an astronaut.
His application arrived about a week past the June 1, 1962, deadline, but Dick Day – a flight simulator expert who Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards – saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed.
Voiced by Harrison Ford, Armstrong’s memoirs reveal in the same film: “I thought the best thing for me to do in this situation was to continue with my work.
“Keep things as normal as I could and try as hard as I could to not have it affect my ability to do useful things.
“I was doing the best I could.
“There was this project down in Houston – the Apollo programme – and they didn’t really know what to test for, so they did everything.”
He would later be selected for the Gemini programme, which tread the path for his later inclusion in the Apollo missions.
Directed by David Fairhead, “Armstrong” will be in UK and Irish cinemas on July 9, to celebrate 50 years since the first Moon landing.
The film was made with the full support of Mr Armstrong’s family after his death in August 2012 and includes previously unseen footage of history’s most famous astronaut.
It also features his own words based on interviews, writings and speeches as well as interviews with his first wife and two sons.