Neil Armstrong biographer to speak in Wapakoneta


WAPAKONETA – The 2019 Celebration Committee will host the presentation “Neil Armstrong: Reluctantly Famous” by James R. Hansen at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Wapakoneta Middle School, 400 W. Harrison St.

Hansen is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong.” The event is free and open to the public.

The moment Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, he became an instant global icon, world famous, an individual who forever more would be featured in all the history books. But, as Hansen notes, Armstrong also “ became a ‘marked man,’ hounded for the rest of his life by fans, autograph seekers, media, as well as a number of ‘crazies’ and ‘quacks.’”

In this illustrated talk, Hansen, Armstrong’s only authorized biographer, looks at the famous astronaut’s life from 1969 to his death in 2012 and how Armstrong managed to survive the onslaught of attention that became very much an unwanted part of the last 43 years of his life.

“We are thrilled that Dr. Hansen will speak in Wapakoneta at the outset of our special 10 days of celebration,” 2019 Committee Co-Chair Rachel Barber said. “James Hansen is the undisputed authority about our own Neil Armstrong, and we look forward to what promises to be a fascinating presentation. Thanks to Principal (Will) Snyder and the middle school for making this venue possible as well.”

Hansen is emeritus professor of history at Auburn University in Alabama. An expert in aerospace history and the history of science and technology, Hansen has published a dozen books and numerous articles covering a wide variety of topics including the early days of aviation, the history of aerospace engineering, NASA, the moon landings, the Space Shuttle program and China’s role in space.

Hansen’s “First Man” (Simon & Schuster, 2005, 2012) is the only authorized biography of Armstrong. The book has twice spent three weeks as a New York Times Bestseller and has garnered major book awards including the AIAA’s Eugene E. Emme Astronautical Prize, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Gardner-Lasser Literature Award and CHOICE magazine’s Outstanding Academic Book.

A film adaptation of “First Man,” starring Ryan Gosling as Armstrong, which premiered in October 2018, earned 25 major awards, including an Academy Award as well as 162 award nominations. In the fall of 2019 Purdue University Press will publish “Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man on the Moon from All Mankind,” featuring a sampling of hundreds of letters written to Armstrong in the years following the moon landing.

A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Hansen graduated summa cum laude from Indiana University and earned a doctorate at The Ohio State University (1981). Hansen taught history at Auburn University from 1986 to his retirement in May 2017.

The 2019 committee’s mission is to develop and implement public programs, events and legacy efforts that reflect the many themes associated with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon walk and to ensure that Wapakoneta and Auglaize County are at the forefront of this worldwide commemoration.

An image of James Hansen with Neil Armstrong overlooks Hansen at a previous presentation. image of James Hansen with Neil Armstrong overlooks Hansen at a previous presentation. Courtesy photo

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