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A Message from Astronaut Neil Armstrong: I Am a Nerdy Engineer and You Should Be Too

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In 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong made history with his famous words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he became the first human being to step foot on the Moon’s surface.

He and his fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to explore the lunar surface and propel science into the future, as well as inspiring generations of children to pursue an education in science and engineering.

But behind that big heroic space helmet that we’ve come to know and love, Neil described himself as a big nerd who loved math and science. In this new PhD Comics video (which features audio from a speech he delivered at the National Press Club on February 22, 2000), he describes how much of an impact engineering has had on his life—and why engineering should inspire you to propel mankind into the future.

“I am and ever will be a white-socks, pocket-protector nerdy engineer,” explains Armstrong. “Born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in the steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace and propelled by compressible flow.” Not exactly the iconic astronaut figure we all know him to be.

But engineers are heroes in a way, as it is their accomplishments that lead to making the world a better place. Their entire existence, says Neil, “is dedicated to doing things better and more efficiently, a profession that leaves its imprint on our society in countless ways.”

By the end of the video, Neil explained that with the power of engineering, the 21st century will experience a rate of progress and scientific advancement that would rival—and perhaps surpass—the rate of progress experienced in the 20th century. As Neil puts it: “Science is about what is; engineering is about what can be.”

And this century is proving Armstrong right: engineers have created machines and devices no one has ever seen before, and improved the standard of living nearly a hundredfold. We’ve been able to connect with people across the world through the internet, sharing our experiences like never before. Just check out our many blog posts on 3D printers alone to see how much of an impact engineers are making on our society!

Sadly, Neil Armstrong passed away in 2012, journeying into the great unknown once again. But his words and his legacy remain to continue to inspire us.

We hope that his words will motivate you to pursue your love of math and science, your ideas about engineering and technology—and maybe some day, we’ll be echoing your words to inspire the next generation of nerdy engineers.

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