May 28, 2015


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One small step for man, or a man? Armstrong said his famous words from the moon were misquoted

Was the walk on the moon one small step for man, or a man?

Neil Armstrong's first words from the moon were heard all over Earth, and Earth heard this:

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 1986 file photo, former astronaut Neil Armstrong, a member of the presidential panel investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, listens to testimony before the commission in Washington, as David Acheson, a commission member, listens in the background. A model of the shuttle sits on the table. The family of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, says he died Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82. A statement from the family says he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. It doesn't say where he died. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969. He radioed back to Earth the historic news of

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 1986 file photo, former astronaut Neil Armstrong, a member of the presidential panel investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, listens to testimony before the commission in Washington, as David Acheson, a commission member, listens in the background. A model of the shuttle sits on the table. The family of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, says he died Saturday, Aug. 25, 2012, at age 82. A statement from the family says he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. It doesn't say where he died. Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon July 20, 1969. He radioed back to Earth the historic news of "one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong and fellow astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the moon, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs. In all, 12 Americans walked on the moon from 1969 to 1972. (AP Photo/Scott Stewart, File)

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

But Armstrong said immediately after the 1969 landing that he had been misquoted. He said he actually said, "That's one small step for 'a' man." It's just that people just didn't hear it.

The astronaut acknowledged in a rare interview in 1999 that he didn't hear himself say it either when he listened to the transmission from the July 20, 1969, moon landing.

"The 'a' was intended," Armstrong said. "I thought I said it. I can't hear it when I listen on the radio reception here on Earth, so I'll be happy if you just put it in parentheses."

Although no in the world heard the "'a," some research backs Armstrong.

In 2006, a computer analysis found evidence that Armstrong said what he said he said.

Peter Shann Ford, an Australian computer programmer, ran a software analysis looking at sound waves and found a wave that would have been the missing "a." It lasted 35 milliseconds, much too quick to be heard. The Smithsonian's space curator, Roger Launius, looked at the evidence and found it convincing.

NASA has also stood by its moon man.

"If Neil Armstrong says there was an 'a,' then as far as we're concerned, there was 'a,'" NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said shortly before the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

Armstrong, who died Saturday at age 82, maintained until the end that there was a lost word in his famous words from the moon.

"I thought about it after landing," he said in a 2011 NASA oral history. "And because we had a lot of other things to do, it was not something that I really concentrated on, but just something that was kind of passing around subliminally or in the background. But it, you know, was a pretty simple statement, talking about stepping off something. Why, it wasn't a very complex thing. It was what it was."

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