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 maintained 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, not only contends that Neil thought up the famous line months before the historic landing, but that the 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 Gray 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 October of this year at the age of 82.
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, wrote his famous “one small step” speech long before flying to the Moon despite claiming he thought it up after landing on the surface, according to his family.
It is the most famous and disputed quote in history.
Now, three months after Neil Armstrong’s death, it has emerged that the first man on the Moon wrote the words to mark the moment he stepped onto the lunar surface months in advance and had always intended to include the notorious missing “a” in the speech.
Armstrong, who was 82 when he died in August, maintained he decided on the line after landing the spacecraft on the surface of the moon and had said: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The millions of people around the world who watched entranced as he stepped off the ladder onto the dusty lunar surface, however, did not hear the crucial “a” in the phrase – sparking decades of debate over its meaning.
However, a series of new and rare interviews with his family to be broadcast on BBC Two on Sunday have revealed that Armstrong scripted his historic words several months before the launch.
Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon Photo: Getty
Dean Armstrong, the astronaut’s brother, said that Neil Armstrong had asked him to read the famous quote shortly before the Apollo 11 crew left for Cape Canaveral, where they would spend the months before the launch preparing for their journey.
He insisted that the original phrase, handed to him on a piece of paper by his brother as they played the board game Risk, contained the infamous missing “a”, although during the interview, even he dropped the letter as he told the story.
He said: “Before he went to the Cape, he invited me down to spend a little time with him. He said 'why don’t you and I, once the boys go to bed, why don’t we play a game of Risk’.
“I said I’d enjoy that. We started playing Risk and then he slipped me a piece of paper and said 'read that’. I did.
“On that piece of paper there was 'That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. He says 'what do you think about that?’ I said 'fabulous’. He said 'I thought you might like that, but I wanted you to read it’.”
He then added: “It was 'that is one small step for A man’.”
The missing indefinite article in the transmission from the surface of the Moon has prompted more than forty years of arguments over what he had actually said. Many accused Armstrong of fluffing his lines while others attempted to read meaning into the phrase.
Without the “a”, the sentence refers to “man” abstractly as the whole of humanity in the same way as mankind in the second half of the sentence.
Armstrong himself always insisted he had said “a”, but in 1999 admitted that he could not hear it either in audio recordings of the event, and that they were perhaps wiped out by transmission static.
Analysis of Armstrong’s words have also suggested that they were spontaneous rather than pre-prepared, but it is now hoped that the revelation by his brother will finally end the speculation over the quote.
Dr Christopher Riley, a lecturer in science and media at Lincoln University who has analysed the lunar landing transmissions and directed the new BBC biopic, said: “Neil always maintained that he’d thought it up after landing, before the walk.
“Dean’s story rather suggests that he gave it a bit more thought than that.
“Neil used to play the game 'Mother may I..’ when he was young, and would say 'Mother may I take one small step ...’ - so maybe this was another source of inspiration for his famous words.
“I think the reason he always claimed he’d thought it up after landing was that he was bombarded by suggestions in the run up to the mission, and found them a distraction to the business of landing on the Moon.
“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.”
The BBC biopic, titled Neil Armstrong – First Man on the Moon, also provides new insights into why Armstrong shunned the public glare after returning to the Earth from the moon.
Two years after walking on the Moon, Armstrong, a former Navy fighter pilot and test pilot, resigned from Nasa to work as a university engineering lecturer and only rarely made public appearances.
His family suggest that Armstrong was racked with anxiety about how he could top walking on the Moon and how to live up to the expectations placed on him as an international icon.
His son Mark Armstrong also suggests that as a workaholic, his father took on too much, ultimately costing him his marriage to his first wife Janet.
Dr Riley added: “He had this impossible job – to fulfil this role as the first man to walk on another world. If you give a workaholic an impossible job, then they will try to do it. This is what Armstrong did when he came back from the Moon.
“He carries on trying to fulfil everyone’s requests. He was seen as this sort of superhuman. He was required to do these impossible things – to bring people together and facilitate impossible projects.
“We all struggle with our work life balance and he was no exception.”
* Neil Armstrong – First Man on the Moon will be broadcast on BBC Two at 9pm on Sunday 30 December
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