Learn everything you ever wanted to know about the first man on the moon. Read this book.
And I mean it.
The author, James R. Hansen, has done an outstanding job, even going back to the Anglo-Danish origins of the Armstrong (“Armestrange”) name. Man, I think I even knew what he had for dinner October 20, 1953. Now, I have to admit, it wasn’t quite like Mr. Cernan’s Last Man On the Moon (see my post). I really don’t mean to compare the two against each other, because one is a biography while the other is an autobiography, one is by an academician, the other by an astronaut/fighter jock, but you really can’t compete with first-hand anything .The structure of First Man is important in its comparison to Last Man in one important element: the structure of First Man very much mirrors the structure of Mr. Armstrong himself. Mr. Armstrong’s strong suit was never in dealing with people. He was 110% the engineer. A flight engineer. As he himself described himself, Neil Armstrong wasn’t so much about being the first to land on the moon…but more about advancing the science and engineering of flight. According to the book, he was thoughtful, analytical, and quite meticulous. To me, he was almost robotic in nature. Totally task oriented.
The opening of the book was one of the best ever—though it was never really capitalized upon…directly. Indirectly, one could look at the oft-quoted Buzz Aldrin statement spoken to Neil Armstrong after returning from the moon and run with it in any of a number of directions. The statement is: “Neil, we missed the whole thing.” Conspiracy buffs love to run with that statement, but after reading this book (and checking out the hyperlink to a Buzz Aldrin interview from July 19, 2009), it can also mean, “Hey, we were dang busy, we didn’t even get to stop and smell the roses!”
Mr. Armstrong seemed to keep everyone at arm’s length. He dove into his work, but he was notoriously close-lipped around people. Over the years, many conspiracy theorists make this to be because he “saw something” out there. “Something” being UFO-related (Buzz Aldrin seemed more the candidate for this, since when they returned, he really wanted to talk about the “lights” he’d seen while out there, interrupting NASA debriefing protocol to discuss them with reporters and all). We’ll most likely never know answers to such questions, but as I read this 700-page account of Armstrong’s life, it became readily apparent that close-lipped is or was how Neil Armstrong simple was. As I like to say, It was who he was; what he does. I don’t know what he’s like now, I got the impression that maybe he’s changed a little? Or is perhaps trying to?…but I think the man was simply the most reserved individual I’ve ever read about or met. And I know people of few words. Some people (I’m not one of them) are just like that. And when you lump Armstrong in with all the more colorful personalities of the other astronauts, well, I can certainly see the concern.
Mr. Hansen’s book does occasionally touch on the topic of the astronauts seeing “bright lights” and UFOs, and he disappointingly brushes it off in classic and casual debunking devaluation. I never understand this type of attitude from so-called scientifically minded individuals. Why is believing in UFOs a joke? Why must phrases like “…of import for those who want to believe in UFOs…” (top of page 430, in the paperback version) constantly be employed? Just because there is no so-call “proof” they don’t exist? Look at all the new discoveries by Hubble that were never thought to have existed. Keep an open mind for crying out loud—but that’s for another posting. But, in general, you will find nothing of real value regarding anything-UFO. The book is all about the man, the myth, the legend of Neil Alden Armstrong. This one failing aside, the book is a tome of information about Armstrong. An outstanding book—one authorized by Armstrong himself (and no, he did not co-author it). First Man gives enormous insight into the man who, arguably, defined Humanity’s greatest achievement.