Despite the fact that Neil Armstrong was one of the most celebrated people of the 20th century, the man himself has remained an enigma, largely because he refuses to do interviews with the media. That makes this four-part series of interviews “An Audience with Neil Armstrong” by evoTV’s The Bottom Line, a rare and fascinating insight into the mind of the man.
The interviewer and host of The Bottom Line, Alex Malley, is also the CEO of CPA Australia. For someone so picky about who he talks to, it may seem odd that Armstrong chose to talk to the head of one of the world’s largest accounting bodies. But Malley quickly reveals the possible reason for the acquiescence: Armstrong’s father was an auditor.
Throughout the series, Malley himself does an admirable task as host, but he is no Andrew Denton. Some important questions remain unasked and unanswered, such as why he was chosen to be the first man to walk on the Moon.
Throughout the interviews, Armstrong discusses many facets of his life: from his early childhood though to his part of the NASA space program and what happened afterwards. And, the first thing that strikes you about Armstrong is that he just seems so ordinary. He is a humble, well-spoken, intelligent and likeable person and there are many elements of his life that seem so simple. He talks happily about his childhood and his family, and of his interest in planes and flying, which he developed from a very early age.
He does not even break stride in detailing the more extraordinary aspects of his life, talking frankly about his time in the Korean War. He makes the point that war hardened his resolve, and he said he felt the risks that he faced during the war were far higher than those he faced as a test pilot or even as an astronaut.
When he relates his story about being a test pilot, Armstrong becomes a little bit more animated. He obviously revelled in being able to contribute to his work and its success. His passion seems to eclipse how risky it actually was; he was involved in more than a few life-threatening incidents. This, more than anything, reveals why he would later be a good choice as a mission commander: he was someone willing to put his life on the line for the greater good.
He also reveals perhaps what you could describe as a typical engineering mentality – very analytical and very focussed. He lacks any real arrogance and even his personal achievements do not really register much outward emotion or pride. Armstrong even states he was unable to really appreciate the gravity of his achievement of walking on the Moon for more than a few moments due to the timeframes placed upon the whole endeavour. Even on the Moon it is hard to get away from deadlines.
He does however have some pride for the space program – you get the sense he is almost embarrassed that he received so much attention personally rather than a focus on the achievements of his colleagues and NASA as a whole. Perhaps this is one reason why he doesn’t give many interviews.
Armstrong could be described as an anachronism: someone famed for manned space flight in an era of computers and robotics. Disregarding our romantic notions of astronauts conquering space, this is what the future of spaceflight seems to inevitably entail. It has been over 30 years since mankind last stepped on the Moon. The motivation of the Cold War is gone and the competitive space race that it generated is over. Without such incentives, the interest in space from the public and governments has waned. But there is still something significant in manned spaceflight: in the modern age of computerised and roboticised space exploration, the human experience has often taken the back seat. Armstrong’s experience is valuable, not just because he was first but because he has gone at all. And that makes the story that he has to tell us particularly important to the story of humanity.
Episode 1: Premieres May 1
From his first aeroplane flight with his Dad at aged seven and the 78 missions he flew in the Korean War, to the dangers of being a test pilot and the space race with the Soviet Union, Commander Armstrong speaks about his journey towards the Apollo 11 mission.
Episode 2: Premieres May 8
Commander Armstrong speaks candidly about the tragic deaths of his space program colleagues which resulted in a complete redesign and rebuild of the space craft. He also reveals that it was only one month before the Apollo 11 mission launched that he and his team were told that they would lead the mission. The pressures and risk that brought with it were immense.
Episode 3: Premieres May 15
Having successfully reached the moon, the real test was now upon them; the landing. Commander Armstrong speaks about a computer malfunction that occurred during the descent which forced them to take over the Lunar Module and fly it manually with only seconds of fuel left. The intensity of piloting towards a successful landing meant he didn’t think about his famous words until he was about to open the hatch. What many people wouldn’t know is that a piece of pen was responsible for helping them get back into orbit.
Episode 4: Premieres May 22
In the final episode, watch a world exclusive as Commander Armstrong speaks through the lunar landing in real-time, using a split screen of actual footage filmed from the Luna Module and duplicate Google Moon footage, debunking any claims that the landing never happened. He also speaks about his life after the mission and his thoughts on the future of the NASA program.