WAPAKONETA — Approximately 400 people had the opportunity Thursday to learn about the life of Neil Armstrong after the moon landing from an expert in aerospace and the history of science and technology.
The 2019 Celebration Committee hosted the presentation “Reluctantly Famous: The Post-Apollo Life of Neil Armstrong” by Dr. James R. Hansen at Wapakoneta Middle School. This year marks the 50-year anniversary of Armstrong’s Apollo 11 moon landing, and activities are planned through July 21 to help commemorate that historic event.
Hansen is emeritus professor of history at Auburn University in Alabama. He has published a dozen books and numerous articles covering topics such as the early days of aviation, the history of aerospace engineering, NASA, the mood landings, the Space Shuttle program and China’s role in space. He is a Fort Wayne native.
Hansen’s “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” is the only authorized biography of Armstrong. The book spent three weeks as a New York Times best seller and garnered major book awards, including the AIAA’s Eugene E. Emme Astronautical Prize, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Gardner-Lasser Literature Award. A film adaption of “First Man” starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong premiered in October 2016 and earned major awards.
He said it took two years to get the green light for Armstrong to approve the book about his life that was published in 2005. He had 55 hours of recorded tapes of interviews from Armstrong talking about his life after the moon landing and had access to Armstrong’s papers and also archives from NASA and military archives. Photos were shown from the 1969 parade during Thursday’s event.
“A lot of people thought Neil became a recluse and stayed away from the public after he landed on the moon, but he did a lot of things,” Hansen said. He said Armstrong did his best he could to lead a normal life, but it was hard with all his popularity.
Hansen informed the audience that Armstrong taught aeorspace engineering at the University of Cincinnati from 1971 to 1979. He wanted to find a way to get out of the spotlight and Washington, get back into engineering and be around young people, Hansen said.
“One of the more prominent things he did was he was chair of the Rogers Commission that looked into the Space Shuttle Challenger accident,” Hansen said.
Hansen said once the moon landing ended, Armstrong became a global icon. People would project things on him and tell stories about him that weren’t true.
Will Snyder, Wapakoneta Middle School principal, and his 6-year-old son, William attended the event.
“The opportunities we are getting to learn about this can light a spark for someone. You never know who the next engineer or hero will be,” Snyder said.
At the end of the presentation, Hansen sold and signed copies of his book.
Reach Jennifer Peryam at 567-242-0362.