Based off of Armstrong's official biography by author James R. Hansen, First Man is an emotional journey into the astronaut's personal tragedies and dramatic sacrifices that ultimately led to his triumphant, history-making lunar landing in 1969.
Ryan Gosling stars as Armstrong, with the additional talents of Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke, Ciarán Hinds, and Corey Stoll. In addition to Armstrong, more than a dozen real-life astronauts are featured in the film. Learn more about the space pioneers whose stories were told on the big screen:
Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling)
"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Such were the famous words uttered by astronaut Neil Armstrong when he became the first person to step foot on the moon in 1969.
Described by his family as a "reluctant American hero," Armstrong welcomed a much quieter life after his historical moon landing. After leaving NASA in 1971, he began teaching as a professor at the University of Cincinnati's Department of Aerospace Engineering through 1980.
In addition to aiding in the Apollo 13 accident investigation, Armstrong also served as vice chairman of the Rogers Commission in 1986, which made inquiries into the Challenger disaster. Although he was a fiercely private man, Armstrong made occasional appearances as a spokesman for companies like Chrysler and the Bankers Association of America. In 1985 he went on a secret North Pole expedition with other world-renowned explorers. After divorcing his wife, Janet, of 38 years, Armstrong married Carol Knight in 1994. Armstrong died in 2012 at the age of 82.
Ed White (Jason Clarke)
"I'm coming back in... and it's the saddest moment of my life." Those were the words of NASA astronaut Ed White as he re-entered his spacecraft, having become the first American astronaut to take a spacewalk, during the Gemini 4 mission in June 1965. Two years later, White's space endeavors proved tragic when he, along with fellow pilots Virgil "Gus" Grissom and Roger B. Chaffee, were assigned to the Apollo 1 mission. During a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy on January 27, all three men were killed after a fire broke out in their cabin. White was buried at West Point Cemetery.
Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler)
Astronaut Deke Slayton was chosen as a NASA Mercury Seven astronaut in the late 1950s. (The Mercury Seven refers to the group of original astronauts selected to pilot the flights of Project Mercury, the United States' "first human spaceflight program" which manned spaceflights between 1961-1963.) He later became the first person to hold NASA's chief of the Astronaut Office position and also served as the organization's director of Flight Crew Operations between 1963 to 1972.
In 1975 Slayton, aged 51, made history by becoming the oldest person in space while piloting a flight under the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project but was later outrivaled by older astronauts, including a 77-year-old John Glenn in subsequent decades. Slayton died of a brain tumor in 1993.
Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll)
Nine minutes after Armstrong took the very first step on the moon, Buzz Aldrin became the second human to do so during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Aldrin helped paved the way for the famed lunar landing during his precursory Gemini 12 mission in 1966, which successfully proved that astronauts could perform activities outside of their spacecraft.
After he resigned from NASA in 1971, Aldrin was appointed commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. However, because he lacked test pilot experience, he found the position difficult to manage, which contributed to his clinical depression and alcohol addiction. He went on to write to two autobiographies, Return to Earth (1973) and Magnificent Desolation (2009), that discussed these struggles in detail.
These days, Aldrin continues to be active in space exploration advocacy and is working with Purdue University to create a spacecraft trajectory to Mars called the Aldrin cycler.
Jim Lovell (Pablo Schreiber)
NASA astronaut Jim Lovell made history when he was the first person to fly to the moon two times. He was a command module pilot on the Apollo 8 mission in 1968 before taking command of the infamous Apollo 13 mission in 1970, which experienced critical failure and had to abort its mission to the moon to save the crew.
In 1973 Lovell retired from the space program and became CEO of the Bay-Houston Towing Company in Houston, Texas, and later held executive positions in other major businesses. In 1994 he wrote about his harrowing Apollo 13 experience in Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13, which became the basis for Ron Howard's Apollo 13 film.
Lovell speaks at college campuses and universities where he advocates on space exploration and science.
David Scott (Christoper Abbott)
Retired Col. David Scott's first space flight was as a pilot on NASA's Gemini 8 mission in 1966 along with fellow astronaut Armstrong. Three years later, he served on Apollo 9 as a command module pilot and later flew his final space mission on the Apollo 15 in 1971, where he became the first person to drive a vehicle on the moon.
Scott has done an extensive amount of television and film consulting work post NASA, including for Apollo 13. He also co-wrote Two Sides of the Moon: Our Story of the Cold War Space Race with Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov in 2006.
Elliot See (Patrick Fugit)
Elliot See was a NASA astronaut who was chosen as the prime command pilot for the Gemini 9 spaceflight in 1966. See, however, along with his intended Gemini 9 crew member, Charles Bassett, would never make it to space. The two astronauts crashed to their death in a simulator training accident in St. Louis, Missouri on February 28, 1966.
Michael Collins (Lukas Haas)
NASA astronaut Michael Collins went on two space missions in his career. The first was aboard Gemini 10 in 1966 and the second was on Apollo 11 in 1969 with Armstrong and Aldrin. He is known as the first person to have completed more than one spacewalk. His post-NASA career involved working as assistant secretary of state for Public Affairs for the Department of State and as director of the National Air and Space Museum and undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Gus Grissom (Shea Whigham)
Lieutenant Colonel Gus Grissom was one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts. In the first year of the Mercury program, he piloted the Mercury-Redstone 4 in July 1961 and four years later, was selected as command pilot for the Gemini 3 mission, successfully orbiting the Earth three times. Although Grissom was scheduled to command the Apollo 1 mission, he died during a pre-launch test with fellow crew members Ed White and Roger Chaffee on January 27, 1967, in Cape Kennedy, Florida.
Joseph A. Walker (Brian d'Arcy James)
NASA pilot Joseph A. Walker was the first to fly the X-15 experimental hypersonic rocket in 1963 and would go on to fly the aircraft two dozen more times. His two flights, known as Flight 90 and Flight 91 in 1963, would make him the first person to have taken multiple trips into space. He also helped develop flight strategies for the lunar program. Walker was killed in 1966 when his aircraft crashed into another aircraft during a public photo shoot for General Electric.
Roger B. Chaffee (Cory Michael Smith)
Roger B. Chaffee was a NASA astronaut who was a capsule communicator at the Mission Control Center for the Gemini program (missions 3 and 4) in 1965. The following year he was selected for his first spaceflight, later known as Apollo 1. However, Chaffee, along with fellow astronauts Ed White and Gus Grissom, would never make it into space. The three died from an accidental fire during a pre-launch testing phase at a launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 1967. He was 31.
John Glenn (John David Whalen)
As one of the country's first astronauts, John Glenn was a member of the Mercury Seven team selected by NASA in 1959. As a crew member of the Friendship 7 mission in 1962, Glenn became "the first American to orbit the Earth three times." After retiring from NASA, Glenn went on to become an Ohio Democratic U.S. Senator from 1974 to 1999. A year before leaving office, Glenn made history once again by flying on the Discovery's STS-95 mission, thereby becoming the oldest person in space.
Pete Conrad (Ethan Embry)
Astronaut Pete Conrad's first spaceflight was aboard the Gemini 5 mission in 1965, in which he set a record eight days in space, along with Command Pilot Gordon Cooper. In 1966 Conrad was commander of Gemini 11 before flying on Apollo 12 and becoming the third person to walk on the moon's surface. His fourth and final spaceflight was in 1973 as commander of the Skylab 2 mission, which flew to repair damages on the Skylab space station. Conrad died in 1999 from a motorcycle accident.
Wally Schirra (Shawn Eric Jones)
NASA astronaut Wally Schirra was one of the original members of the Mercury Seven. In 1962 he was aboard the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission and was also one of two crew members on the Gemini 6A spacecraft, which completed the first space rendezvous with its sister spacecraft, the Gemini 7, in 1965. Three years later, he served as commander on Apollo 7. He is distinguished as the first astronaut to have been in space three times and is the only astronaut who flew in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Schirra later worked as a television consultant for space mission coverage.
Gordon Cooper (William Gregory Lee)
Astronaut Gordon Cooper was the youngest member of the Mercury Seven. In 1963 he served as pilot on the Mercury-Atlas 9 mission — the program's last and longest spaceflight, which clocked in at 34 hours. During this flight, Cooper became "the first American to sleep in space." In 1965 he took his final space mission aboard the Gemini 5 as command pilot.