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James R. Hansen papers on Neil Armstrong

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 183

Scope and Contents

The James R. Hansen Papers on Neil Armstrong comprise the materials used to write First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, the only official biography of Armstrong. A Professor of History at Auburn University, James Hansen was authorized by Armstrong to write the biography in 2002. Between 2002 and 2004, Hansen compiled the materials presented here in preparation for the book's publication. Interviews conducted with Armstrong's primary professional and personal relations comprise a large portion of the collection, as well as a series of interviews and correspondence with Armstrong himself. The audio recordings of these interview sessions are also included here. In addition to the interview materials, the Hansen Papers include a range of research materials related to all the relevant aspects of Armstrong's biograph. These include subject files on places Armstrong grew up, aspects of his career as a Naval and experimental test pilot, an extensive research collection on Armstrong;s career at NACA and NASA and his involvement with the Gemini and Apollo Programs, information about his upbringing and education including subject files on Purdue University and many other aspects of Armstrong's personal and professional life. The collection also contains the book proposal for First Man, correspondence related to the publication of the book, and the publicity that followed publication. The Papers are oirganized into 5 series: 1) Interview Files; 2) Audio/Videoa Files; 3) Research and Reference Materials; 4) Publication Records, Publicity, and Correspondence related to First Man; and, 5) Miscellaneous Post-publication Materials.


  • 1955-2011
  • Other: Majority of material found in 2002-2005
  • Other: Date acquired: 09/12/2011


Biographical or Historical Information

James R. Hansen is a Professor of History at Auburn University and the author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, the first and only authorized biography of the NASA astronaut famous for successfully commanding the first lunar landing mission. Professor Hansen has documented the history of aviation and space flight for over 25 years, winning the History Book Award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for From the Ground Up: The Autobiography of an Aeronautical Engineer. His 1995 book, Spaceflight Revolution, is the only book ever to be nominated by NASA for a Pulitzer Prize. In addition to publishing, Hansen has served a number of boards and commissions, such as the Editorial Advisory Board of the Smithsonian Institution Press, the Advisory Board for the Archives of Aerospace Exploration at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and has been vice-president of the Virginia Air and Space Museum. Source: Auburn University Department of History, (2013). James R. Hansen. Retrieved from

Note written by Donovan Irven


17.20 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

1. Interview Files, 1966-2011 (3.6 cubic feet) This series contains James Hansen’s interview files and related research, compiled for the purpose of writing First Man. Materials related to each interviewee are housed in a file with their name and arranged alphabetically according to last name. Most interview files contain transcripts, in full or in part, of interviews conducted with the subject, as well as any notes Hansen may have taken about the interview, and any materials that the interviewee may have provided to supplement their remarks. When subjects were not available for interview (for example, those deceased) Hansen has compiled a biographical profile of the subject, including interviews that may have been given at a much earlier date. 2.  Audio/Video Materials, 1967-2005 (1 cubic foot) This series consists largely of audio recordings of interviews conducted by James Hansen as part of his First Man book project. Most interviews are recorded on multiple mini-cassettes and labeled according to the name of the interviewee. The order presented here is that in which Hansen donated the materials. 3. Research and Reference Files, 1955-2008 (9.2 cubic foot) This series contains the research and reference materials used by James Hansen while writing First Man. Dr. Hansen’s folder titles have been retained, with notes added for clarification when appropriate. Many of the files contained here were indexed by subject and this arrangement has been preserved with subject headings placed in alphabetical order. Certain subjects, for instance “Apollo” and “Gemini,” are substantial and, due to the volume of material and general importance to the collection, are in boxes dedicated to those subjects. Of note are copies of Armstrong’s flight logs, both from his service in Korea and from his time as an experimental test pilot at Edwards and Dryden research centers. Hansen also developed a timeline of Armstrong’s activities as a test pilot and astronaut in a series of chronologically organized binders. These appear at the beginning of the series and serve as a general overview of Armstrong’s career in spaceflight as well as a sampling of the materials found throughout this series. 4. Publication Records, Publicity, and Correspondence Related to First Man, 2002-2011 (2.4 cubic feet) This series contains the working documents and correspondence related to the book proposal for First Man, Hansen’s research plan, reviews and publicity for the book, as well as a variety of materials dealing with potential film options. For the most part, these materials are preserved in chronological order from earliest to most recent. There is, additionally, one box containing news items and materials related to the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission in 2009, with which Hansen was involved in various ways. Some of the materials are restricted due to third party privacy concerns. 5. Miscellaneous Post-publication Materials 2005-2010 This series houses material donated by James Hansen that is related to astronautics and aeronautics, but were collected by him following the publication of First Man. It includes books for which Hansen provided a statement or introduction, as well as some photographs.

Source of Acquisition

James R. Hansen
James R. Hansen papers on Neil Armstrong
In Progress
Donovan Irven
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States