And of course they all had the right stuff, and they knew it, and they knew that Armstrong had more of it than most. During the Apollo Lander Simulation flight – the trainer was dubbed the flying bedstead with good reason – in Arizona the computers glitched or the gyros tumbled so that the platform tumbled ninety degrees. If Armstrong had ejected with it in that attitude he would not have achieved enough altitude to allow the parachute to open. He kept his nerve and slowly rotated the platform as it fell, and when the angle was right – about 45 degrees I am told, I wasn’t there – ejected. Everything worked and he landed without injury. They’ve calculated that he had about three seconds to spare.
The computers overloaded during the Apollo 11 landings, and Armstrong came through again. This time he had twenty seconds of fuel to spare. The right stuff came through. The Eagle landed as the world watched, and the world would never be the same. Those of us who had a part in that can be sure of that. When I was growing up I knew from the first day I read Willy Ley’s book that I would live to see the first man on the Moon. I had not expected to outlive him, but Mankind’s conquest of space is not over. We’ll be back.