KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — It was 50 years ago that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were on their way to the moon, ready to make history with man's first steps on the lunar surface. But they had a little help getting there.
- Bob Pearson shares memories of Neil Armstrong
- Pearson spent a lot of time in lunar module simulator
- Follow our Apollo 11 coverage
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Our Apollo 11 coverage continues with how the Space Coast prepared Armstrong for his giant leap for mankind.
Bob Pearson was the man who taught Armstrong, Collins and Aldrin how to land on the moon while the Kennedy Space Center was home to the Flight Crew Training Building.
It is where every astronaut trained to land on the moon, including the crew of Apollo 11.
"I've landed on the moon more times than anybody in the world," said Pearson, the lunar module simulator lead instructor.
At the Kennedy Space Center, Pearson taught all of the Apollo astronauts how to land on the moon, inside the lunar module simulator.
"Nobody spent as much time in that simulator than I did," he explained.
Day in and day out inside the simulator, he worked as close with Armstrong than anyone else during those days leading up to Apollo 11.
"He pushed 'start' and it went right over his back, and I said, 'Neil, I've done this quite a few times, you really got to go pitch down and then push the buttons,'" Pearson recalled.
Sometimes the first man to walk on the moon would not listen to Pearson, but eventually he came around. Despite differences, Pearson says he and Armstrong became good friends.
"The next day he came in said, 'You're right' and he had a whole page written out that he agreed with me," remembered Pearson.
He watched the launch near the Vehicle Assembly Building, and then made his way to Mission Control in Houston to provide support for the landing.
"When they were getting down close to landing, I think all of a sudden, 'By God, we are going to land on the moon' and that was a bit of a shock, even at that point," he said.
The Michigan-native breathed a deep sigh of relief when they landed and Armstrong uttered those words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
"He put a lot of thought into it, Neil and he wasn't a show off or anything like that," Pearson said about Armstrong's famous quote when he finally touched on the lunar surface.
Pearson went on to train all the other Apollo astronauts, but he said it took time for him to understand.
"A hell of a lot of study. I used to fall asleep with a book that thick," Pearson answered when asked what it took to land on the moon.
Pearson stuck around for a few years after the Apollo program ended and then left NASA.
At 87, he is retired now, still living close to the space center where he helped Armstrong make history.
"Great, but nobody ever gives you credit for it. Oh sure, I know what I've done and what I haven't done and what I should have done," he said about teaching the first human to go to the moon.
Pearson said in the days leading up to Apollo 11, Armstrong and Aldrin were never nervous.
"I guess that's what made them the right fit to be the first to walk on the moon," he confirmed.