Neil Armstrong’s death this week revived memories of when he took one small step to Bedfordshire, by visiting a former flight testing centre in the 1970s.
Mr Armstrong, who is kbecame the first man on the moon 43 years ago, died on Saturday at the age of 82.
He led the Apollo 11 mission which landed on the moon on July 21, 1969.
Less than two years later, the American astronaut made the slightly shorter visit to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Bedford, in Thurleigh, which was at the time the UK’s premier flight testing and wind tunnel research centre.
Before he became an astronaut, he worked for the US Navy officer as a pilot and served in the Korean War.
As an experienced test pilot, he came to the county on a liason visit and accepted an invitation to fly “something unusual”.
The Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group aims to preserve the legacy of the RAE, and has had Mr Armstrong’s visit documented for years.
Group member Barry Tomlinson said: “As his introduction to flying the single-seat HP115 aircraft on June 24, 1971, he was briefed by RAE Bedford test pilot Ron Ledwidge and then, in effect, was handed the keys and told to go.
“That’s what test pilots do. He came back safely, all smiles, after a brief flight.”
He added: “I knew the test pilot well and he often spoke about Neil Armstrong’s visit.
“It was always something he remembered very well.“
Mr Armstrong flew the Handley Page HP115 aircraft, which was used to investigate the low-speed flying qualities of highly-swept wings, suitable for Concorde.
The HP115’s first flight took place at Thurleigh on August 17, 1961, eight years before Concorde, which had its first flight in the same year as Mr Armstrong landed on the moon.
Opened in the early 1950s, RAE ceased to exist as a Government-funded research laboratory in 2001.
The Bedford Aeronautical Heritage Group now exists to preserve the scientific and historical legacy of the establishment.
It holds the complete photographic archive of the centre, and its activities include giving talks to local organisations about the work and achievements of RAE Bedford.
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Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 6 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North