The Apollo 11 lunar module: “The Eagle has
landed.” (NASA Photos)
I had to wait for the television reporter to come on later and tell me that the first man to
walk on the moon had said, “That's one small step for man, but one giant leap for
We know the rest of the story. Armstrong spent his first few minutes on the Moon taking
photographs and soil samples in case the mission had to be aborted suddenly (you
remember that a lot of viewers back on terra firma were still betting on the little beady-
eyed aliens to attack!).
Then he was joined by colleague Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin at 0315 GMT. Remember watching
them jump around on the grayish landscape? The two collected more data, planted the
American flag at 0341 GMT (yes, conspiratorialists everywhere, it did look like it was
waving in the breeze, but get over it!), then unveiled a plaque bearing President Nixon's
signature and an inscription reading: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon
the Moon July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind."
They received a message from President Richard Nixon: "This certainly has to be the
most historic telephone call ever made." Lots of other nations also sent messages of
congratulation. Moscow sulked.
Before they signed off and everybody down on Planet Earth finally got to get some
sleep, Michael Collins told mission control in Houston he had successfully orbited the
Moon in the mother ship Columbia, and take-off was on schedule for 1750 GMT this
All was right with the world. Americans were first. And despite his slight grammar
mistake—he should have said “…a man,” Neil Armstrong had given a pretty classy
quote from the moon.
It sure beat, “Yee-haw, lookee here, y’all!” That’s probably what I would have said in the
excitement of the moment.
ARMSTRONG NOW GETS AN “A”
All along the first man on the moon has said that he intended to say it properly and
insisted that he remembered including the “a” in his first-step quote, despite what people
heard back home.
Well, lookee here, y’all! Now, thirty seven years later, it appears he was right. All the
grammar purists can finally rest easy.
The October 1, 2006, edition of the Houston Chronicle created a bit of a firestorm by
quoting an Australian computer programmer who says he found the missing "a" from
Armstrong's famous first words from the moon in 1969—"That's one small step for a
man, one giant leap for mankind."
Peter Shann Ford, using the latest technology and audio software, has apparently
proved Neil Armstrong’s recollection to be correct. Apparently, he downloaded the
historic phrase from a NASA Web site, then analyzed the phrase with a fancy program
that helps disabled people to communicate through computers using their nerve
In a graphical representation of the famous phrase, Ford said he found evidence that
the missing "a" was spoken and transmitted to NASA.
"I have reviewed the data and Peter Ford's analysis of it, and I find the technology
interesting and useful," Armstrong said in a statement. "I also find his conclusion
persuasive. Persuasive is the appropriate word."
That's one small word for astronaut Neil Armstrong, one giant revision for historians
NEIL ARMSTRONG GETS AN "A"
July 21, 1969—0256 GMT.
Where were you when American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man
to walk on the Moon’s surface?
Wherever you were and whatever you were doing, it is likely your heart was
beating as quickly as mine during the moments leading up to that historic moment
and the momentous words spoken by Armstrong.
Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin had landed the lunar module safely at 2017
GMT, and Neil declared, “Houston, Tranquililty Base here. The Eagle has landed.”
|Peter Shann Ford,
Armstrong said, "That's
one small step for a man,
one giant leap for
mankind." Using special
computer software, he
found the missing "a."
|When Neil Armstrong
landed on the moon on July
20, 1969, he reportedly
said, "That's one small step
for man, one giant leap for
mankind." (NASA Photos)
Then after the hatch was opened onto the chalky dust of the Sea of
Tranquility, the moments were captured on television cameras
installed on the Eagle as Armstrong moved slowly, bouncingly, down
the ladder, put his left foot down onto what he later described as
powdered charcoal (not green cheese, as Mama Graham had
always figured!), and said...
WHAT DID HE SAY?
What I heard, watching on a small black and white television set, with
its “rabbit ears” antenna and snowy reception, was “grrgglllll….step
for….grreggzz…giant leap for…sssrrrzzhss.”
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