5 Facts About Neil Armstrong: Odd Jobs, Moon Walking & NASA's "Mr. Cool"

Today would have been the late, great Neil Armstrong’s 84th birthday. Here his friend Jay Barbree, author of the new biography "Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight," shares some fascinating facts about the first man on the moon.
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Today would have been the late, great Neil Armstrong’s 84th birthday. Here his friend Jay Barbree, author of the new biography "Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight," shares some fascinating facts about the first man on the moon.
Neil Armstrong, suited up as the Commander of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission, poses for a portrait in July 1969.(Photo: Getty Images)

Neil Armstrong, suited up as the Commander of the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission, poses for a portrait in July 1969.(Photo: Getty Images)

Neil Armstrong was a humble hero who made “a giant leap for mankind” when he was the first man to step foot on the moon on July 20th, 1969. 

Neil Armstrong A Life of Flight Photo

We caught up with Jay Barbree, author of the new biography Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight, who shared some fun facts about his friend Neil Armstrong from his early love of flight to his later years as NASA’s modest “Mr. Cool.”

1. As a young man Neil Armstrong had many odd jobs, even one involving a walk among the dead.

When he was 10 years old, Armstrong was paid $1 to mow the cemetery in Wapakoneta, Ohio, the small town where he was born August 5th, 1930. It was one of many odd jobs the enterprising young Armstrong had around town, and eventually he earned enough money to pay for $9-per-hour flying lessons. (The town now has a museum named after Armstrong.)

2. While other teens were getting behind the wheel, young Neil Armstrong was getting into a cockpit.

He fell in love with flying at an early age, and earned his pilot’s license on his 16th birthday even before he received his driver’s license.

3. Before he was a hero astronaut, he was a “gofer”. . .

Armstrong worked as a “gofer” for pilots at the local airport. One day Armstrong helped a pilot push his sleek Luscombe plane to the gas pumps, cleaned its windows and polished its gleaming surfaces, which earned him a ride and a flying lesson.

4. He could fly just about anything. . .

After graduating from college, he became a test pilot. He could fly over 200 different types of aircraft from the dangerous rocket plane the X-15—which could reach a top speed of 4,000 miles per hour—to gliders, which he called sailplanes.

Apollo Moon Walk Photo

"One giant leap for mankind": The Apollo 11 moon walk on July 20th, 1969.

5. His reputation as a humble “Mr. Cool” earned him a spot in history.

When the time came to choose the astronaut to first step onto the moon, Armstrong’s well-deserved reputation for humility and perfectly honed flying skills propelled him to those first, fateful steps on a place other than Earth. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the lunar surface Sunday, July 20th, 1969 at 4:17:42 PM EST. Six hours and 38 minutes later Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon.