Photo: Photographer: Neil Armstrong
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That’s the line transmitted to millions of people around the world after Neil Armstrong planted his space boots onto the surface of the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Armstrong always maintained that he said “a man,” but that the “a” was not heard because of static. Others think the Apollo 11 commander just forgot to say it.
In a 2005 biography, Neil also said that he came up with the statement in the few hours after landing.
But interviews with Neil’s family members for a new BBC documentary, which premiered Sunday, don’t jibe with that story.
In “Neil Armstrong — First Man on the Moon,” the astronaut’s brother, Dean Armstrong, contends that Neil thought up the famous line months before the historic landing. He also confirms that the planned phrase included the word “a.”
A couple of months before Neil left for Cape Canaveral, he invited his brother to stay with him. Neil slipped the quotation to his brother on a piece of paper while the two men played a game of Risk, The Telegraph’s Richard grey reports. Although Dean originally forgot the letter “a” during his BBC interview, he later corrected himself.
Why would Neil lie about the origin of the famous quotation?
Dr. Christopher Riley, the director of the BBC film, offers one possible explanation: “It was probably easier to just say that he’d thought it up after landing, thus dodging the issue of where the words came from, and who maybe suggested them, or influenced him,” he said.
This seems feasible since Neil was known for his modesty and camera-shy persona. He avoided the press and relished his privacy despite being hailed as an international hero.
It’s a shame we can’t ask the space man himself. Neil passed away in August of this year at the age of 82.
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