New Movie About Neil Armstrong

A look at one of history's most cherished — and elusive — heroes.

Despite being one of the most famous figures in American history, not many people know about Neil Armstrong outside of what defined his fame.

He was an astronaut who was the first person to walk on the moon — but who was the man behind the moment? 

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The new film First Man stars Ryan Gosling as the elusive astronaut and offers a glimpse into who Neil Armstrong was. The movie is based on the book "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong," which was written by official Neil Armstrong biographer James Hansen.

In an interview with >NBC News upon the release of the new movie,

Hansen opens up about how adamant Neil was on maintaining his privacy in spite of his historic success.

"There was nothing in Neil's personality that really tried to find the limelight.

After Apollo 11 he didn't like the celebrity that went with it. Of course, he had become a global icon, the first of our species to step on another heavenly body. It was never about fame or fortune for him. It was about the flying."

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That desire to lead a normal life is a good indicator as to why the world knew so little about him. And now, with the release of a major motion picture starring one of the biggest actors in Hollywood, Neil's story will be shared with the world.

Neil was born on August 5, 1930, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He had served in the Korean war and after finishing college, he was one of the first people to join the newly-formed NASA. Though he was already well-known for becoming part of an elite crew of NASA astronauts, it was Apollo 11 that made him an icon.

Armstrong was the spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, which the first of its kind to attempt a manned lunar mission. His name was cemented in history when he became the first man to step on the moon and say the now-legendary remark, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

Read on to learn more about acclaimed astronaut Neil Armstrong and how the new film First Man connects to the truth of who he was, what really happened to him and how he died. 

1. Ryan Gosling got it right.

Those closest to Neil Armstrong, including his two sons Mark and Rick Armstrong, say that the actor did an excellent job of portraying their father, especially his aloofness.

Both sons were involved in the making of the movie, which was probably a huge advantage for Ryan Gosling for his own research and ability to get to the heart of who Neil was. In a video interview with Collider, Mark and Rick discuss how they were pleased with the outcome of the film.

"It's really gratifying to see it come together in a way that feels familiar and true to us."

2. Was there really a moment on the moon when Neil was mourning his late daughter?

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One thing the film touches on is a highly personal subject for Armstrong: his daughter, Karen, who had died of a brain tumor in 1962 at just three years old. This was, understandably, a topic that Neil rarely talked about, even with those closest to him.

Biographer James Hansen says that Neil did say one thing, however, on whether or not his daughter's death had an impact on his space career, which Hansen adds was directly put into the film: "Well, I think it would be unreasonable to assume that it would have no effect."

There's another poignant scene in the movie that has had moviegoers wondering if it was a moment that had really happened during Neil's time on the moon. Toward the end of the movie, Armstrong — as played by Gosling — is seen tossing a bracelet with his daughter's name on it into a moon crater. According to Hansen, there is no evidence that specific moment had actually occurred and was likely a case of dramatic license on the part of the filmmakers. 

3. How did the rest of his life play out?

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Neil Armstrong made history when he stepped onto the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. But what happened after that? 

Armstrong continued to work with NASA as a deputy associate administrator for aeronautics until 1971. Following his time with NASA, he worked as a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. It's safe to say having Neil Armstrong as your professor would be pretty amazing.

In 1986, Neil served as the vice chairman on the presidential commission for the space shuttle Challenger accident that occurred that same year. The commission's role was to investigate the explosion that happened on the Challenger, which ended up claiming the lives of its crew. Neil lived out the rest of his life in Ohio. Armstrong and his first wife, Janet, divorced in 1994, and Neil went on to re-marry another woman named Carol. In the film First Man, Neil's first wife, Janet, is played by Claire Foy. 

Neil passed away on August 25, 2012, at 82 years old due to complications from cardiovascular procedures.

4. He has appeared in television interviews.

Neil has appeared in interviews over the years since the 1969 moon landing. During those interviews, however, he usually sticks to talking about all things space-related. Again, a clear reminder that despite his notoriety, he wanted to remain a private person in his own life. 

5. First Man isn't his first brush with Hollywood.


Following the successful Apollo 11 mission, Neil Armstrong became a household name. Truth be told, it's kind of hard to escape that type of status when your name is symbolic with such a historical moment. Though he remained fiercely private, he didn't completely shy away from Hollywood. Neil has made appearances alongside celebrities like Bob Hope and was a guest at a celebrity-filled roast for the legendary comedian back in the 1970's.  

Even before he became the first man on the moon, Neil's parents were special guests on a 1962 episode of the game show> I've Got A Secret after it was announced that Neil was chosen to become a NASA astronaut. Oddly enough, during their appearance, Neil's mother is asked how she would feel if Neil would become the first man on the moon. She sweetly replied, "Well, I guess I would just say 'God bless him and I wish him the best of all good luck'."

And seven years later, he did.

7. How did Neil Armstrong die?

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Armstrong died from complications of heart surgery in 2012, even though his family thought he was recovering. He was 82. 

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Neil Armstrong has passed away following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures," his family said in a statement. "While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”

Armstrong was buried at sea. 

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Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer and Michigan native who covers trending news, pop culture, crime and celebrity topics. 

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