Neil Armstrong Moon Landing


On July 20, 1969, banner headlines across the nation and around the world announced Man Walks on Moon. A few months later, The Scroll ran a story entitled Moon Alpha Established: Armstrong Carries Phi Delta Theta Badge on Historic Apollo XI Moon Journey. The article explained: “The Wapakoneta, Ohio, native established Moon Alpha by carrying a special replica of Phi Delta Theta’s Founders Badge with him on his epic journey.” The badge was engraved with Neil Armstrong’s name, his (Purdue) chapter and Bond Number 851, and the designation Apollo XI, 1969. In a personal note to Executive Secretary Robert J. Miller at the Fraternity General Headquarters, Neil Armstrong, Purdue ’55, wrote that he was glad to carry the pin on Apollo XI and that he looked forward to the opportunity soon to return it to Oxford. So there it is now, and there it will remain, in the Founders Room alongside small silk flags of the United States and Phi Delta Theta that Armstrong had previously carried with him on his Gemini flight in 1966.

During the space odyssey of 1969, the Phis at Purdue set up a lawn display depicting the earth, the moon, and the speeding spaceship. At the climax of that flight, untold millions watching TV screens heard Neil Armstrong say, “Eagle has landed” and saw him take “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

On the return to Earth, Armstrong and his colleagues Aldrin and Collins addressed a joint session of Congress and received the newly created Congressional Space Medal of Honor. A few weeks later, the three astronauts began a thirty-eight-day world tour in which they presented to the governments of twenty-two countries replicas of the moon landing plaque: “We came in peace for all mankind.”

On September 9, 1969, the Post Office Department issued the Moon Stamp. A ten cents airmail commemorative picturing the first man on the moon, in a white helmet and space suit, stepping down from the ladder of the lunar module Eagle; over the pale moon horizon, it showed the earth, a cloudy marble swimming in endless space. Thus Neil Armstrong joined Benjamin Harrison, Miami 1852, William Allen White, Kansas 1890, and Frank Lloyd Wright, Wisconsin 1889, as Phis honored on United States postage stamps.

In January 1970, Neil Armstrong visited his alma mater, talked with President Fred Hovde, Minnesota ’29, and spent a relaxed hour with the Phis in the Purdue chapter house. There, he made it clear, in his soft-spoken way, that he would rather talk about his Purdue memories than the moon. Then, in June 1970, at Miami University, he gave the commencement address, received an honorary degree, signed the visitors’ register at Phi Delta Theta Headquarters, and presented an autographed moon-walk photo to the Fraternity. Finally, at a Washington, DC, news conference, he was asked what Apollo XI’s message was. He replied, “I believe that the message was that in the spirit of Apollo, a free and open spirit, you can attack a very difficult goal and achieve it if you can all agree . . . and work together to achieve that goal.”