"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind", proclaimed Neil Armstrong on 20 July 1969 when he became the first person to step onto the moon. The road leading to that historic moon landing began in Wapakoneta, Ohio, where he was born in 1930. He funded his early flying lessons with a drugstore job and on his sixteenth birthday received a student pilot's license. He entered Purdue University as a naval air cadet in 1947, but was called to active duty for the Korean War during his sophomore year and flew 78 combat missions in F9F-2 "Panthers" from the carrier Essex. After completing his Navy service, he returned to Purdue and in 1955 took a position with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later NASA) at Lewis Research Center. He flew as a NASA test pilot at Edwards AFB before applying for astronaut training in 1962. As the command pilot on Gemini 8, he accomplished the first successful docking of two vehicles in space. After leaving the astronaut program, he served on the faculty at the University of Cincinnati for 9 years before becoming Chairman of the Board of an oil field equipment firm.
The painting shows the Apollo 11 command module piloted by Neil Armstrong and its service module during the critical trans-earth injection behind the moon and outside earth communication. The service module engine is firing a two and one-half minute burst programmed to exit the spacecraft from lunar orbit and direct it toward a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.