Comparing Neil Armstrong to Christopher Columbus, Their Lives and Deeds


Neil Armstrong   Christopher Columbus







Read the two brief biographical accounts below then write a one page essay listing events and deeds in the lives of Neil Armstrong and Christopher Columbus which are similar.  For example, both men, as depicted above,  planted flags of their respective countries on the lands of their discovery.


Neil Armstrong, recently turned 80 years of age.  He is famous for being the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.  That day hundreds of millions of people watched worldwide on television Armstrong setting foot on the Moon.


It was one small step off a ladder, that allowed Armstrong to place the  first human footprint on the extraterrestrial world of the Earth’s Moon.  Predictably, this gained Neil immediate hero status.


His first words that day after stepping onto the lunar regolith have become historic, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."


Though the television broadcast was fuzzy, appearing somewhat unfocused, the 500 million people watched it saw the white-space-suited Armstrong, scale down the  lander's ladder onto the moon's bleak surface.


Neil was the commander of the Apollo 11 mission, and, as such, he broadcast to mission control that his “Eagle” spacecraft had made a successful touchdown. His eight words were, "Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed."


Accompanied by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, Neil walked about the Moon for about two and a half hours exploring the Moon landing site.


Neil described what he saw on the surface as being like powdered charcoal, adding, "I can pick it up loosely with my toe.”


Like slow motion dancers, Armstrong and Aldrin cavorted  about in spite of wearing bulky space suits.  This was their first experience with the moon's one-sixth of Earth’s gravity.  


The pair of “moon-men” took photographs, retrieved both Moon rock and soil samples and erected scientific instruments.


Not only did they plant an American flag but they also placed a plaque saying: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. We came in peace for all mankind."


Returning to Earth on July 24 ended the memorable Apollo 11 mission. This was both Neil Armstrong's second and final trip into space.

His first space mission had been in September 1966.  Then, Armstrong had accompanied Astronaut David Scott on the Gemini 8 mission.   Their spacecraft had rendezvoused and docked with an unmanned target craft called the Agena.   It was the first time that two vehicles had docked in space.


As for Neil Armstrong’s earlier life, he was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio on August 5, 1930.  As a teenager, he was enthralled by airplanes while working at an airfield  near his home.  There, as a 15 year old youth, he took flying lessons, receiving his pilot's license on the day he became 16.   Flying served him well leading to a career as a United States Navy aviator.  This led to flying 78 combat missions in the Korean War.


His education included aeronautical engineering at Indiana’s Purdue University.  Later Neil, at the University of Southern California, earned a Master of Science degree.   It, too, was in aerospace engineering.


In 1955, he became a test pilot at the Edwards Air Force Base in California.  The base tested high-speed aircraft.  Neil was privileged to have flown approximately 50 different types of aircraft.  It was seven years later when Neil Armstrong was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as an astronaut.  He would be trained in Houston, Texas.   


Since he has recently turned 80 (2010), Neil has now lived, the greater part of his life since that day he walked on the Moon.  And in these subsequent years, since leaving NASA in 1971,  for nearly ten years, he taught aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati and was a board member of such companies as Lear Jet, United Airlines and Marathon Oil.  During this time, though he is world famous, he has always discouraged publicity and renown. His comment, during an interview in 2005, attests to Armstrong’s attitude when he told a television commentator his view, “I wasn't chosen to be first. I was just chosen to command that flight. Circumstance put me in that particular role."


Christopher Columbus: Biography


The following is a paraphrased adaptation of a brief biography prepared by The Order Sons of Italy in America in Washington, D.C.



In the year 1451, Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) was born in Genoa. His parents were Domenico Colombo and his wife, Susanna Fontanarossa.  The couple were weavers, living above their modest shop. This was the time when Genoa had a powerful navy.  As an independent nation, it competed with Venice and even traded with the distant Orient.  However, in 1453, only two years after Columbus was borne, Constantinople was captured by the Moslems.  This ended Europe’s eastern  shipping routes to the Orient.  Such made the discovery of a westward passage important.

Columbus was only 14 in 1465 when he embarked on his first sea  Then later he studied the science of navigation while in Greece as well as mapmaking while in Portugal, living there nine years among a colony of Genoese sea trading ship owners and enterprising business men.  During this time, he also sailed on ships to Africa, Ireland, England and even Iceland.



Columbus took a wife,  Felipa Perestrello y Moniz in 1479, which resulted in a son (1479), Diego, but unfortunately, Columbus was soon widowed in the next year, 1480. He had another son later but never married, that son Fernando’s mother, Beatrice de Harana.



Columbus devised a plan for reaching the Orient via a westward water route across the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1481 he presented the plan to many kings, Portugal, England, France and Spain.  Only the king and queen of Spain expressed interest, but it took six years (1486-1492) for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to approve Columbus’s offer to sail west to reach the Orient.



Finally,  On August 3, 1492, Columbus embarked west from Palos, Spain.  Temporarily, repairing and restocking his fleet of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria at the Canary Islands, he sailed west once more, arriving on October 12 at two o clock in the

morning,  when land was  sighted.  It was an island which he named San Salvador (Holy Savior).  A devout Christian believer, Columbus records his motives as partially missionary, wanting to introduce Christianity to the New World.



But there were other voyages which Columbus make,  his last voyage across the ocean being in 1502.   In total, he crossed the Atlantic four times in the period of a decade: 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502.



On his first voyage,  he landed also on Haiti as well as the Dominican Republic.  This he names Hispaniola.  There he establishes  the first permanent Old Word Settlement in the New World across the Atlantic Ocean.  It is the first European settlement in the Western Hemisphere.   Unfortunately, his third voyage, results with his political enemies returning him to Spain in chains. 



In the year 1506 Columbus passes from this life in the city of Valladolid, Spain, on May 20 at age 54. He instructs his family to inter him in the chains which bound him while being returned to Spain on his third voyage.  To this day, his burial place is unknown though some scholars believe his body to be in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.  Yet, those opposed to this have him buried in Spain in the Cathedral of Seville.


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