The first man on the Moon. Only one person can claim that title-Neil Alden Armstrong. 

On July 21st, 1969 at 02:56:15 (GMT), Neil was the first person to step foot on the Moon. While he is now remembered for this one moment, there was a time when Neil was known for more down-to-earth reasons, like his work ethic, his sense of honor, and his love for math and science. 

In the recently released movie First Man, Neil’s accomplishments as an astronaut are highlighted. However, some of the most formative parts of the astronaut’s life are not as well known. Learn more about one of our nation’s most famous Eagle Scouts. 

first man
From left: Astronauts Pete Conrad and Buzz Aldrin; James Lovell’s mother, Blanch; Barbara Lovell (chin in hand); Neil Armstrong (standing); Jeffrey, Marilyn and Susan Lovell, all watching TV at the Lovell home during the Apollo 13 crisis, April 1970. (Bill Eppridge – LIFE Magazine)

An Eagle in Space

Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930. He was an astronaut and aeronautical engineer who was the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also a naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. But first, he was a Scout. 

neil armstrong scouting
Neil Armstrong on May 23, 1952

Neil’s story as a Scout begins in the town of Sandusky, Ohio. The boys of Troop 25 could often be found horsing around at meetings and campouts. All of the boys, that is, except Neil. “[He] was buckling down and learning things like the flag semaphore code and first aid,” one of his troopmates told Scouting magazine in their March-April 1970 issue.

Armstrong’s younger brother, Dean, told Scouting magazine what the moonwalker learned in his Scouting years.

“He was quiet and smaller than most of his classmates in high school,” Dean Armstrong said. “Scouting helped him gain confidence in himself.”

The Trail to Eagle

Neil Armstrong was also a serious and dedicated student. He loved math and science and “devoured books.” In fact, the second merit badge he earned toward his Eagle was the Reading Merit Badge. (The Art merit badge was his first.) These skills would later become very important to Neil in his career as an astronaut and engineer.

Neil Armstrong didn’t stop at the 21 merit badges required for Eagle, though. He finished with 26—including the Scholarship, Aviation, Pathfinding, and Pioneering Merit Badges. Unfortunately for Neil though, the Space Exploration merit badge wasn’t created until 1965—the year he turned 35.

However, Neil’s childhood Council, the Shawnee Council of Lima, OH at the time, awarded him the “Honorary Space Exploration Merit Badge.” It was dated the day he landed on the moon. 

Neil also went on to complete the trail to Eagle and become an Eagle Scout. He was determined to follow the suit of his two closest Scouting friends when they earned their Eagles before him—even though that meant juggling merit badge work and college coursework.

This strong competitive spirit stands out in the minds of his fellow Wolf Patrol member, K.K. Solacoff, who believes this drive led Neil to complete his Eagle Requirements while a 17-year-old student at Purdue University-later than most Eagle Scouts who usually earned it in high school. 

And so he earned Scouting’s highest honor at 17. That’s more impressive when you realize that 17-year-old Eagle Scouts were rare in the 1940s. In that decade, the average age a young man earned Eagle was around 14.5

Most college freshmen lose touch with Scouting until they have Scout-age children of their own. But not Armstrong.

A Scout is Trustworthy (and Hardworking)

Neil was always a great example of a good Scout and was no exception to the phrase “a Scout is trustworthy.” 

While hiking a short 20 miles for the Hiking merit badge, Neil panicked when he checked his watch and noticed the hike was taking longer than planned. If he didn’t hurry, he would be late for his job at the bakery—unacceptable behavior in this young Scout’s mind.

“So, he took off at a Scout’s pace, alternately running and walking” and made it to work on time, after hike/running the rest of his 20 miles, his friend K.K. Solacoff told Scouting.

“By the time we got home, we were not only exhausted, but we had painful cramps in our legs,” Solacoff says.

Work was just a fact of life in the Armstrong household. Armstrong’s first job was cutting grass in the local cemetery. His pay: 25 cents an hour.

“If you wanted something, you better work,” Dean Armstrong said. “Everybody started working when he was 8 or 9 years old — and you just never stopped. You always had a job.”

And so when Neil, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, those who knew him way back when weren’t a bit surprised. They expected this Eagle Scout to do some out-of-this-world things.

“His failure would have been a surprise” said his troopmates. 

You can read this story in its original form of publication-the Scouting story “Eagle on the Moon” from the March-April 1970 issue.

A Scout’s Hero

First man Neil ArmstrongAs an adult, Neil was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America with its Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo Award. His 

On July 18, 1969, while flying toward the Moon, Armstrong greeted the Scouts. Among the few personal items that he carried with him to the Moon and back was a World Scout Badge.

Scouts now working on the Space Exploration Merit Badge must design a collector’s card about their favorite space pioneer.

“I’m guessing a bunch of them select the ultimate space pioneer. The First Man. The first Eagle Scout on the moon,” says Bryan on Scouting.

 

 

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