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Moon Landing 50th: Letters to Armstrong

The Neil A. Armstrong Papers at Purdue University contain 70,000 pages of fan mail saved by the astronaut.

Posted: Jul 19, 2019 6:18 AM

You can watch the special report above.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — The Neil A. Armstrong Papers at Purdue University preserve much of what we know today about the astronaut. The collection has been organized and cataloged so it can be easily accessed for research and leaning.

There are photographs, lunar maps, Navy documents, and even used space food. But perhaps the most telling items in the collection are in the words of others, in the 70,000 pages of fan mail saved by the spaceman.

"In his will, it was that his papers would come to Purdue," said Purdue Associate Head of Archives and Special Collections Tracy Grimm. "He really wanted his materials to be used. In Neil's papers, because he saved everything, we have so much of that history you can actually touch and feel."

"My name is Anne, I'm 11 years old. I want to be a woman astronaut," read one letter.

Grimm said he saved a lot of the fan mail after 1970. Letters came in from all corners of the world, showing admiration. 

"The volume was so great during 1969, no one could save all that," said Grimm. "We found a memo saying there were 10,000 letters a day flooding into NASA headquarters for the Apollo 11 astronauts."

"If you would have time to drop by my school, I'd really appreciate it," one child asked Armstrong. Another asked, "Are you going to Mars next year? Or aren't you?"

"It's people's wonder, their disbelief, their gratitude," said Grimm. "But also a lot of the letters ask for things. A lot of people wanted autographs. They wanted information from Neil. They named their children after Neil. They wanted money!"

"Please send me your photo," read one, of many letters. 

"So they're wanting something, but at the same time expressing admiration," Grimm said.

"Did you ever run out of air?"

"I would like to know why people are spending money on people going to the moon when there are people starving."

"How and where do you go to the bathroom? Do you like it up at the moon? How much do your oxygen tanks cost?" asked Shari Naylor from West Lafayette in 1972.

Armstrong's secretaries would keep track of what was sent to each of the writers. Grimm said often times, Armstrong himself would send personal responses, with his autograph attached. 

Apollo in the Archives: Selections from the Neil A. Armstrong Papers,” is open Monday - Friday 10 am to 4:30 p.m. in the Stewart Center. The Purdue Archives and Special Collections is inside the Humanities, Social Sciences and Education library on the fourth floor.

Click here for a schedule of how Purdue will celebrate.

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