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Image: Neil Armstrong
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Test pilot Neil Armstrong flashes a grin in 1960 after an X-15 flight at the facility that came to be known as Dryden Flight Research Center. Now lawmakers want to change the name to Armstrong Flight Research Center, in honor of the pilot who became the first man to walk on the moon.
By Editor, CollectSpace
updated 12/1/2012 8:50:38 PM ET 2012-12-02T01:50:38

An effort to rename a NASA flight research center after the late moonwalker Neil Armstrong was relaunched this week in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., announced legislation on Thursday to redesignate NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center. The bill would also rename the Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.

Similar legislation to retitle the southern California facility was introduced in July 2007 by Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., who is co-sponsoring the new bill. McKeon and McCarthy supported the prior attempt to rename the center, which is located at Edwards Air Force Base in California's Mojave Desert.

Armstrong, who in July 1969 became the first man to walk on the moon, died earlier this year following complications resulting from heart surgery.

"I will never forget watching Neil Armstrong take those first steps on the moon," McKeon said in a release issued by his office. "In that remarkable and powerful moment, Neil Armstrong confirmed to the entire world watching that anything is possible and that nothing, not even traveling to outer space and walking on the moon, was too tall of an order for the United States." [Photos: Neil Armstrong Remembered]

"I am proud to be an original co-sponsor of this bill renaming the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center in honor of Neil A. Armstrong," McKeon added. "Dedicating this stellar institution to Neil Armstrong is a small token of our public gratitude and will hopefully work to ensure that his legacy is honored for generations to come."

Dryden Flight Research Center is NASA's primary center for atmospheric flight research and operations. In addition to its research work to advance the design of civilian and military aircraft, Dryden was the primary alternate landing site for the space shuttle and is now managing the launch abort systems testing and integration for NASA's Orion crew module, its next-generation multipurpose spacecraft.

Engineer vs. astronaut
Dryden was originally known as the Muroc Flight Test Unit under the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor to NASA. The facility was also referred to as the High-Speed Flight Research Station and High-Speed Flight Station before becoming a part of the nation's space program with NASA's founding in 1958.

On March 26, 1976, the flight research center was named in honor of Hugh L. Dryden, the former director of NACA, who served as NASA's first deputy administrator up until his death in 1965. One of the country's most prominent aeronautical engineers, Dryden helped shape policy that led to the development of the nation's high-speed research program and its record-setting X-15 rocketplane. He also headed the negotiations for the early agreements with the Soviet Union on the peaceful use of space.

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The proposed legislation, if approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president, would still honor Dryden.

"This bill also continues to recognize Hugh Dryden by renaming the center's test range in his honor," McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy, the decision to honor Armstrong was based in part on the astronaut's history working at the flight research center.

"This bill recognizes the achievements of Neil Armstrong in aerospace travel and space exploration, and highlights his important connection to Kern County," McCarthy said. "He was a great American who served as a test pilot and began training for his famous astronaut career here in Eastern Kern. Later, he oversaw aeronautical research programs at the center and spearheaded technological innovation that continues to this day."

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From 1955 to 1962, Armstrong served as a test pilot at the center (then the High-Speed Flight Station), amassing 2,400 hours of flying time, including flights on the X-15. While still at the center in the early 1960s, Armstrong was part of a team that conceptualized the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, which helped create the training vehicle that he and other Apollo astronauts used to practice landing on the moon. [Space History Photo: Pilot Neil Armstrong and X-15 #1]

Advocates for Armstrong
The bid to rename the flight research center and its test range has the support of members of the area's aerospace industry and local community organizations, including the Antelope Valley Board of Trade, the Mojave Chamber of Commerce, the Palmdale Chamber of Commerce, and the Edwards Air Force Base Civilian-Military Support Group.

"It is most appropriate that astronaut Neil A. Armstrong be honored and memorialized in this way with his noted lifelong accomplishments as the first human to walk on the moon and as a former test pilot who worked at the Dryden Flight Research Center," said Stuart Witt, CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Should the bill become law, it wouldn't be the first time a NASA center has been renamed for an astronaut.

On March 1, 1999, Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio — which was named after Dryden's predecessor at NACA, George Lewis — became the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field, recognizing the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth.

Follow CollectSpace on Facebook and Twitter @collectSPACE and editor Robert Pearlman @robertpearlman. Copyright 2012 CollectSpace.com. All rights reserved.

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Photos: Neil Armstrong: 1930-2012

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  1. American hero

    Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, who passed away on Aug. 25, 2012, will be forever known as the first man to set foot on the moon. This 1969 portrait shows Armstrong in his spacesuit, standing in front of a large photograph of the lunar surface. (NASA via EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Family portrait

    Astronaut Neil Armstrong is pictured with his wife, Janet, and his two sons, Eric and Mark, on Aug. 26, 1963. (Ralph Morse / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. In training

    Neil Armstrong is buckled up at a NASA training center on Sept. 1, 1963. (Ralph Morse / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Flying bedstead

    Neil Armstrong strides alongside a lunar landing research vehicle, also known as a "flying bedstead," at Edwards Air Force Base in California on Aug. 1, 1964. The LLRV was used to train astronauts for landings on the moon. In 1968, Armstrong had to eject from an LLRV when the flight controls failed. It was one of the astronaut's closest calls. (Ralph Morse / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Suited up

    Neil Armstrong sits in a mock space capsule, dressed in a full Navy Mark IV pressure suit (except for the helmet), during training for his Gemini space mission in the mid-1960s. (Ralph Morse / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Gemini 8

    Commander Neil Armstrong (foreground) and pilot David Scott prepare to get into their Gemini 8 capsule on March 16, 1966. The mission marked the first docking of two spacecraft in orbit, but ended prematurely due to a thruster malfunction. Armstrong got the spacecraft under control and brought the capsule safely back to Earth for a Pacific splashdown. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. The trio of Apollo

    Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong, the crew of Apollo 11, pose with a model of the moon in 1969. (Ralph Morse / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Practice run

    Apollo 11's Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins stand by a mock Apollo capsule during water egress training in the Gulf of Mexico. (Science Society Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Rehearsal for landing

    Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong poses with a landing simulator at the Lunar Landing Research Facility at NASA's Langley Research Center on Feb. 12, 1969. (NASA / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. At ease

    Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin stand in front of their Saturn 5 rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 20, 1969, during preparations for their mission. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Checking out the seats

    Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin wear clean-room gear during a walk-through egress test in their command module on June 10, 1969. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Meet the press

    The crew members of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, get comfortable during a press conference in July 1969. (NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Time for study

    Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong reviews flight plans on July 14, 1969. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Checking the fit

    Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin get ready to train for extravehicular activity, under the watchful eye of chief astronaut Deke Slayton (right). (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Here's the scoop

    Neil Armstrong takes a photo of a sample that Buzz Aldrin is about to collect with a large scoop during a training session. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. On their way

    Neil Armstrong waves as he and his Apollo 11 crewmates head for the van that will take them to the Saturn 5 rocket for launch to the moon from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Fire in the sky

    The Apollo 11 mission's Saturn 5 rocket climbs toward orbit after liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at 9:32 a.m. ET on July 16, 1969. This photo was taken with a 70mm telescopic camera mounted on an Air Force EC-135N plane. Onboard were astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. (Science Society Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Shadow on the moon

    Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong captures his own shadow on film while taking a photo of the lunar module on the moon's surface in July 1969. (Neil Armstrong / NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Star-spangled moon

    A frame from a 16mm movie shows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin setting up an American flag on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 lunar mission on July 20, 1969. (Time & Life Pictures / NASA via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. One small step

    Neil Armstrong steps into history on July 20, 1969, by leaving the first human footprint on the surface of the moon. (NASA via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Reflecting on history

    Astronaut Buzz Aldrin stands on the moon next to the lunar module in this photo, taken by Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969. Aldrin's helmet visor reflects back the scene in front of him, including a small image of Armstrong taking the picture. (Neil Armstrong / NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Astronaut at work

    Neil Armstrong is seen near the lunar lander and the U.S. flag in a picture taken by Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. (Buzz Aldrin / NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Watching from afar

    Ten thousand spectators gathered to watch giant television screens in New York's Central Park and cheer as astronaut Neil Armstrong took humanity's first step on the moon on July 20, 1969. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Homeward bound

    The lunar module, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin aboard, approaches the Apollo 11 command module for a rendezvous on July 21, 1969, marking the first leg of the homeward journey. A half-Earth is seen in the background. (NASA via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. All smiles

    Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin laugh along with President Richard Nixon aboard the USS Hornet. The president was on hand to greet the astronauts after their splashdown in the Pacific on July 24, 1969. The crew was in a quarantine facility as a post-flight precaution. (Richard Nixon Foundation / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Laughing at quarantine

    Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin are in high spirits as they look out through the window of their mobile quarantine van on July 24, 1969. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Family reunion

    Neil Armstrong greets his son Mark on the telephone intercom system while his wife Janet and his other son Eric look on at Ellington Air Force Base in Texas on July 27, 1969. Armstrong and his crewmates were quarantined for 21 days after landing back on Earth, out of concern that they might have brought harmful germs back with them from the moon. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Free at last

    Neil Armstrong greets friends after being released from quarantine on Aug. 10, 1969. (NASA via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Ticker-tape parade

    Apollo 11 astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong wave to crowds as they celebrate their return from the moon in a New York ticker-tape parade on Aug. 13, 1969. (Time & Life Pictures / NASA via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Behind a desk

    After Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong was appointed deputy associate administrator for aeronautics at NASA Headquarters in Washington. In this picture, Armstrong is seen in his Washington office on July 23, 1970. He resigned from NASA in 1971, and became active in academia and the corporate world. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Dealing with tragedy

    After the shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, Neil Armstrong was chosen to serve as the vice chairman of the presidential commission set up to investigate the tragedy. Armstrong is seen here listening to testimony before the commission in Washington on Feb. 11, 1986. Another member of the commission, David Acheson, listens in the background. (Scott Stewart / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. 30 years later

    Neil Armstrong is awarded the Samuel P. Langley Medal in front of the Apollo 11 command module at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, during a ceremony on July 20, 1999, marking the 30th anniversary of the first moon landing. Vice President Al Gore, applauding at right, presented medals to Armstrong as well as to Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. (Joyce Naltchayan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A piece of history

    Museumgoers walk around the Apollo 11 command module at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington on July 16, 2009, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11's launch. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. 40 years later

    Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins stand in front of a lunar module exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington on July 19, 2009, the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. (Mark Avino / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Hailed by the chief

    President Barack Obama speaks with Neil Armstrong and fellow Apollo 11 crew members Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins during an Oval Office meeting on July 20, 2009, the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. (Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Hero on the Hill

    Retired NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong is welcomed by Norman Augustine (left), chairman of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee, and retired astronaut Eugene Cernan (obscured), commander of Apollo 17 mission, before the three testified on Capitol Hill on May 12, 2010. Armstong, Cernan and Augustine testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the future of U.S. human spaceflight. During his testimony, Armstrong said he was "not confident" about the commercial market's ability to provide safe and reliable hardware for human spaceflight. (Win McNamee / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Gold medal

    Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong is presented with the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 16, 2011. The gold medals were presented to Armstrong and his fellow crew members from Apollo 11, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, and to retired senator-astronaut John Glenn, the first American to go into Earth orbit. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Celebration time

    Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong speaks during a celebration dinner at Ohio State University in Columbus, marking the 50th anniversary of retired senator-astronaut John Glenn's historic flight aboard Friendship 7. It was one of the last high-profile public events Armstrong attended. (Bill Ingalls / NASA via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Remembering astronaut Neil Armstrong

  1. Closed captioning of: Remembering astronaut Neil Armstrong

    >>> president obama today ordered flags at half staff for the burial of neil armstrong who may have been the last truly modest hero our nation ever produced. much of the coverage of his life has dealt for good reason with his footstop and his footprint on the moon but those who read more about him about find an astonishing american journey. by the time he was 22 he was already a decorated naval aviator , a veteran of 78 combat missions over korea, he was later a test pilot, he flew in the experimental x-15 seven different times, topping out at 200,000 feet and flying along the likes of chuck quyeager. there was never a neil skrarm strong action figure or chain of restaurants with his name. he did it for the team and quietly walked away. he lived long enough to see the end of our space program and that upset him greatly but also lived long enough to see the great pictures coming back from the mars rover where they talked about neil armstrong today at mission control . he was all about courage, the quiet kind. he was a patriot of the highest order and thankfully right when america needed just the right man for that job, there he was. neil armstrong was 82 years old. he'll be buried in ohio on friday.

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