Photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Armstrong. © Tyson Archives.
Photo of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Armstrong. © Tyson Archives.

First Man – Celebrating Neil Armstrong

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Armstrong at the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11 at the National Air and Space Museum, July 20, 2009. © Tyson Archives.

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About This Episode

It’s claustrophobic, dangerous, and there were still doubts that the mission was going to succeed. But as legendary Apollo Flight Director Gene Kranz says, “Failure is not an option.” On this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson, comic co-host Chuck Nice and Astro Mike Massimino, two-time space shuttle veteran and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, sit down together to celebrate the life and legacy of Neil Armstrong in conjunction with the release of the brand-new film First Man.

The film follows Neil (portrayed by Ryan Gosling) and his career leading up to the Moon landing. Whether he’s pushing altitude limits in an X-15, testing docking mechanics in a Gemini capsule above the Earth, or landing on the Moon with only drops of fuel remaining – he’s as cool as ice. Neil and Mike discuss the film and whether or not it accurately portrays Armstrong as he was in real life. You’ll hear from Armstrong himself as Neil caught up with the real-life first man on the Moon at the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission Tyson hosted in 2009 at The National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. You’ll also hear from Gene Kranz, who was also at the event, who tells Neil what it was like to be a part of the mission from the ground.

Explore why, even though Armstrong was quiet and weary of the spotlight, everyone agreed he was the right man for the job. Mike shares his experience meeting Armstrong while he was an astronaut in training. Neil also describes the first time he met Armstrong – on a cruise to Mauritania to view a solar eclipse, for which the 14-year-old Tyson had won a scholarship through the Explorers Club. Mike explains how Armstrong’s first words on the Moon influenced him when he sent the first tweet ever tweeted from space.

You’ll hear why the Moon landing was so stressful for everyone on the ground, and Mike explains the honesty that comes with discussing the chances of having unsuccessful missions. You’ll also learn more about the Omega watches that were used on Apollo 11 and how NASA decided which watch brand to choose. All that, plus, Neil reflects upon the Apollo 11 mission and how it was perceived not as an American event, but a world event, inspiring millions and millions of people across the globe.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: First Man – Celebrating Neil Armstrong.

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