Man on the Moon

Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong, M.S. ’70, set foot on the moon. Here are five fun facts about the legendary astronaut.

Master Class

Mike Gruntman, chair of USC Viterbi’s Department of Astronautical Engineering, reports: “In January 1970, Armstrong gave a one-hour seminar at USC on the technical aspects of landing Apollo’s lunar module, Eagle, on the surface of the moon in 1969 — and immediately after the seminar received his master of science degree in aerospace engineering.”

The Plane That Flew on Two Worlds

Among the personal items that Armstrong took with him to the moon were two pieces of the Wright brothers’ first successful airplane — which can thus be argued to have flown in two worlds.

Insurance Covers

About a month before the launch of Apollo 11, Armstrong, along with fellow crew members Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, signed hundreds of commemorative posters, which were then given to a trusted friend with instructions to be sold on the day of the mission so they could fetch the highest price — with proceeds going to their families because they could not afford life insurance. Thankfully, the mission was successful, and today a single autographed “Apollo Insurance Cover” can fetch over $5,000 at auction.

Neil at the North Pole

It sounds like the plot of a summer blockbuster — Everest explorer Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong arrive at the North Pole — but in fact it was one of those spectacular crossroads of history. In 1985, the pair — who had never met before — got in a tiny bush plane and took off for the top of the earth. Hillary’s son, Peter, who was also on board, described the experience as “You are virtually in outer space out there.” No word if Armstrong rolled his eyes, but he probably didn’t, as he was a quiet, classy sort of guy.


While embarking on a career as a college professor, Armstrong dabbled in children’s poetry. A poem he wrote called “My Vacation” captures his trip to the moon:

Nine summers ago, I went for a visit.

To see if the moon was green cheese.

When we arrived, people on Earth asked: “Is it?”

We answered: “No cheese, no bees, no trees.”

There were rocks and hills and a remarkable view

Of the beautiful Earth that you know.

It’s a nice place to visit, and I’m certain that you

Will enjoy it when you get to go.