First Men - Neil Armstrong (Study)
Painting Completed November 2007
|I guess every astronaut wanted to be the first man on the Moon. I know I did. And if we couldn't be the first, we at least wanted to be one of the first. How was it decided? Here is my memory.
To give us the best chance of "landing men on the Moon and returning them safely to earth" we first had to fully test the spacecraft and demonstrate all the critical techniques and procedures. This would require a series of flight tests, first in earth orbit and then out to and around the Moon. We had a carefully thought out plan as to how many flights and what each would need to accomplish to give us confidence that the first landing attempt would be successful.
To perform these space flights our boss, Deke Slayton, selected six crews of three astronauts each. Wally Schirra's crew would be the prime crew and would fly the first flight, Apollo 7, with Tom Stafford's crew as back-up. Tom's crew would then begin training assigned as prime crew three flights later, and so forth. Frank Borman's crew would fly Apollo 8, with Neil Armstrong's crew as back-up. Jim McDivitt's crew was assigned to Apollo 9 with our crew - Pete Conrad's crew - as back-up. Tom Stafford's crew would fly apollo 10, Neil's Apollo 11, and Pete's Apollo 12.
That was the plan; however we also knew that the plan we had created at the start would have to be modified as we went along because of the unanticipated results, some good, and some bad, that always occur with actual flight testing. I believe all eighteen of us thought we had a good chance at attempting the first landing.
For Pete, Dick, and I, things went too well.
Apollo 11's crew got the opportunity to make the first attempt. Neil, Buzz, and Mike flew a perfect flight and went into the history books; but all 400,000 of us that helped make Apollo a success are in there, somewhere in the fine print, too.