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NASA’s Apollo 11 mission was the first spaceflight that successfully landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Commander Neil Armstrong secured legendary status after becoming the first man to step on the lunar surface, shortly followed by module pilot Buzz Aldrin. However, things could have been different had Christopher Kraft got his way. The American aerospace engineer is a retired NASA employee who was one of the most senior figures of the Apollo series, becoming director of the Manned Spacecraft Centre in 1972.As head of Flight Operations, Kraft was closely involved in planning the management of the Apollo 8 series of 1968, but that did not stop him from pulling a few strings in other missions, he claimed during Altitude film’s upcoming film “Armstrong”.He said: “Did I have anything to do with Neil being the first man on the Moon? Yes. I did it.“Deke Slayton said ‘Aldrin will be the first guy on the Moon’ but up here [in my head] said ‘we don’t want Aldrin on the Moon.Apollo 11 landing and Christopher Kraft (Image: GETTY)Neil Armstrong was the first man on the Moon (Image: GETTY) Did I have anything to do with Neil being the first man on the Moon? Yes. I did itChristopher Kraft“I just felt like Buzz was not the right personality and would not be the best representative for the United States.“I thought Neil would do better.“I didn’t dislike Aldrin, didn’t like him either, we all have weaknesses, I didn’t know Jesus when I met him though.”Armstrong’s first step onto the lunar surface was broadcast on live TV to a worldwide audience.He secured legendary status with his first words on the Moon, describing the event as “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.The successful mission effectively ended the Space Race with the Soviet Union and fulfilled a national goal proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.No less than a year later though, disaster struck during the Apollo 13 mission with the same intended destination.The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the service module upon which the command module had depended.Despite the loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to make makeshift repairs to the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17, 1970, six days after launch.Kraft was hailed as a hero during the crisis after being called in to help Mission Control following the accident.The Apollo 11 crew who ended the Space Race (Image: GETTY)Mission Control celebrating in 1969 (Image: GETTY)He chaired the meeting of senior managers which decided the mode that Apollo 13 would use to return to Earth.Many Apollo engineers Kraft worked with during the mission later became top managers themselves and credit their previous boss for their success.He personally hand-picked and trained an entire generation of NASA flight directors, including John Hodge, Glynn Lunney and Gene Kranz, the last of whom referred to Kraft simply as “The Teacher”.The principles that Kraft had inculcated continued to have an impact at Johnson Space Center long after he retired in 1994.The new film will hit cinemas on July 12 (Image: NC)Directed by David Fairhead, “Armstrong” will be in UK and Irish cinemas on July 12, to celebrate 50 years since the first Moon landing.The film was made with the full support of Mr Armstrong’s family after his death in August 2012 and includes previously unseen footage of history’s most famous astronaut. It also features his own words based on interviews, writings and speeches as well as interviews with his first wife and two sons.