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  Apollo 11: Finding Armstrong's 'a' in 'one small step' (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   Apollo 11: Finding Armstrong's 'a' in 'one small step'
Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-04-2006 11:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KC Stoever:
By the way, was I hallucinating last night, listening to Keith Olbermann's Countdown (tv was in the other room)? Didn't he have the "small step for a man" story at number one on his story countdown? I can't find mention of it in the provisional transcript of the show.
It appears it was #2 on his list of top three newsmakers of the day:
But first, time now for COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day...

Number two, Neil Armstrong. Long have we been told that the first man on the moon said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"? But he was supposed to say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Now an Australian audio analyst has cleaned up the tape of what Armstrong actually said, says Armstrong got it right, said., "That's one small step for a man." But the word was lost in the garbled transmission from the moon.

Dwight
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posted 10-04-2006 11:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwight   Click Here to Email Dwight     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm sorry, but I dont think Ford has uncovered what he claims. I ran the exact same waveform through Steinberg's Wavelab. I also sampled the noiseprint of radio intereference and reduced the background noise by around 40dB using Waves digital noise reduction and find absolutely no evidence of an "a". There is also no radio interference when the "a" is supposed to be said. It also stretches my imagination to agree that Armstrong lazily said "fera man". I don't see why it is so difficult to think he was excited and just plumb flubbed his sentence. That's my two cents anyway.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-04-2006 04:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following links are just a sample of the on-going discussion at Language Log, a professional blog devoted to linguistics. These entries were written by David Beaver, a faculty member in the Linguistics Department at Stanford University:

KC Stoever
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posted 10-04-2006 07:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks so much for linking those, um, links. Fascinating reading and graphics.

And the story was number 2 on Keith Olbermann tonight. A very nice story, with footage from 1969 (lunar surface) and 2006 (Australia) and KO narrative explaining it all. Kudos all around.

Obviousman
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posted 10-05-2006 02:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Rick:
I, for one, still don't believe Armstrong actually said "one small step for A man." The cadence of his sentence, to me, does not include any break for a missing word.
I agree totally - I still think he missed the "a".

I believe it takes nothing away from the significance of the achievement, nor from the intent of the statement.

Dwight
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posted 10-05-2006 06:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwight   Click Here to Email Dwight     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you watch the 16mm DAC at the moment he says his famous line Neil looks up at Buzz in the window. Whether that is also a recognition of the mistake or nervousness is open to debate.

GarthDWiebe
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posted 10-07-2006 06:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GarthDWiebe   Click Here to Email GarthDWiebe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By way of introduction, I am an electrical engineer, a computer hardware designer by profession for 28 years. I have been involved in professional audio, including both live sound and studio recording non-professionally on the side for the last 20 years and, lately, digital audio product development as a business.

Upon hearing in the news about the Peter Shann Ford analysis, I did my own evaluation of the NASA "One small step for (a) man" sound file, and determined that Mr. Ford's analysis does not support his conclusion.

Mr. Ford used $45 GoldWave software and only looked visually at the section in question, after applying noise filtering.

I utilized $400 Adobe Audition 2.0 audio production software (developed by Syntrillium Software, which company Adobe bought), and $700 Celemony Melodyne Studio 3.0 software to do my investigation, so I had somewhat better tools at my disposal.

In the questioned part of the audio file where the "a" is sought, there is a bit of noise, specifically three short noise spikes, and that may be misleading Mr. Ford. Mr. Ford does use noise filtering, but such filtering does not completely eliminate the noise spikes, due to their prominence. You can still see them.

I am providing some much clearer screen shots and audio samples which should demonstrate to the careful listener that no "a" is evident in the recording.

Here is the original recording as obtained from the NASA website.

Here is a version of that same recording after applying Adobe Audition noise filtering algorithms.

Here is the recording, with no noise filtering, slowed down to half the original speed, using Melodyne.

Here is the noise filtered version slowed down to half the original speed, using Melodyne.

Here is a version which uses Adobe Audition to slow down the "for man" phrase to one tenth of its original speed.

Note that in the 1/10th speed version above, Mr. Ford's "0.035 second" section would be magnified by a factor of ten, making it about a third of a second long (0.35 seconds). This would satisfy Mr. Ford's anecdotal comment that the original was "10 times too fast for the 'a' to be audible." I think that the attentive listener will discern that the "m" is already closed during that time.

Supporting screen shots are consolidated into one PDF file.

The first picture shows the spectrogram of the original NASA recording, including background hum and noise. The three noise spikes mentioned previously can be seen.

The second picture shows the filtered version, with the three noise spikes still visible.

The third picture shows the audio wave file with the "for man" segment stretched to 10 times its length.

The fourth picture shows the filtered version as Melodyne depicts it on a "piano roll." The vertical axis represents notes on the piano ("C3" is the "C" one octave below middle "C") the blue "blobs" are the wave file, and the thin blue line represents the musical pitch of his voice. Note that in the segment in question, where the noise is, the pitch cannot be followed by the pitch detection algorithm of Melodyne.

I would welcome any comments or questions concerning my conclusions.

GarthDWiebe
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posted 10-07-2006 08:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GarthDWiebe   Click Here to Email GarthDWiebe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was pointed out to me by David Beaver that I should also have an unfiltered, 10x slower rendition, which I have uploaded for completeness.

KC Stoever
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posted 10-07-2006 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for that.

For those of us who might not click through, could you--would you please--provide a synopsis or summary?

GarthDWiebe
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posted 10-12-2006 09:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GarthDWiebe   Click Here to Email GarthDWiebe     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
At this link is my synopsis/summary, with annotated screen shots and pointers to audio files.

For convenience, I have extracted the first page text:

An analysis and rebuttal to Peter Shann Ford's conclusion about what Neil Armstrong said
Garth D. Wiebe, October 12, 2006

Here is what Peter Shann Ford did.

He made the claim that the "a" was present in "One small step for (a) man" based on the following methodology:

He used a simple, low cost audio wave editor (GoldWave v5.14) to examine the audio waveform.

First he used the editor to select the background noise in the waveform where Neil Armstrong was not speaking.

Then he used the editor's capability to filter the whole waveform based on that selected noise profile.

Then he zoomed in on the area in question and noticed that there was still something there. He assumed that this was the missing "a" sound.

What he saw was only the noise that existed there in the first place, although somewhat reduced by the noise filtering.

He said that the "a" sound was too quick to be humanly perceived, as it was "0.035 seconds" long.

Here is what I did:

I likewise created a filtered version of the original recording, in the same way that he did.

I used a more advanced audio editor (Adobe Audition 2.0) to create a two-dimensional, color-graded frequency plot, called a "spectrogram" of both the filtered and unfiltered versions. In it you can separately see the hum (straight continuous lines), crackly noise (vertical intrusions), and his voice (long wavy lines consisting of his fundamental pitch plus harmonic overtones above it. (See page 2.)

I used a second, very state of the art utility (Celemony Melodyne 3.0) to plot his fundamental vocal pitch on a "note by note" basis on what is called a "piano roll." One can flip back and forth between the piano roll and the spectrogram and correlate them. Melodyne is not able to discern a voiced vowel pitch ("a") during the spot in question, because it detects only noise there. (See page 3.)

I showed that the noise was still there in the filtered version, of sufficient magnitude to mislead someone looking at just the waveform into thinking that the desired object was there. (See page 4.)

On page 2, I show exactly where the "a" is still missing in the spectrogram. You can see this clearly in the spectrogram, whereas a simple waveform cannot reveal it. I circled that place where the "a" should appear as a fundamental tone of his voice, beneath the noise, if it was there.

I used the aforementioned advanced audio editor to slow down the section in question by a factor of ten, so that Mr. Ford's "0.035 second" section is now 0.35 seconds long. This alleviates Mr. Ford's contention that "0.035 seconds" is too quick to be humanly discerned.

Listening to the slowed down version, one can hear that the "a" still cannot be discerned, and that the sound progresses evenly from the "r" sound to the "m" sound with nothing in between.

SpaceAholic
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posted 06-02-2013 07:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Acoustical Society of America: Native Ohioans’ Speaking Patterns Help Scientists Decipher Famous Moon Landing Quote
When Neil Armstrong took his first step on the Moon, he claimed he said, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” – but many listeners think he left out the “a.” A team of speech scientists and psychologists from Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing and The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus is taking a novel approach to deciphering Armstrong’s quote by studying how speakers from his native central Ohio pronounce “for” and “for a.” Their results suggest that it is entirely possible that Armstrong said what he claimed, though evidence indicates that people are statistically more likely to hear “for man” instead of “for a man” on the recording. The team will present its work at the 21st International Congress on Acoustics (ICA 2013), held June 2-7 in Montreal.

nasamad
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posted 06-02-2013 09:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for nasamad   Click Here to Email nasamad     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Coming from the county of Essex in the UK (a place nationally derided for its speech patterns and accent, lol), I know that "for a man" could very easily be shortened or pronounced "framan".

Maybe Neil was a secret Essex Boy.

Blackarrow
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posted 06-02-2013 12:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Blackarrow     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is a fact that human beings accidentally leave words out when speaking. Do we know for a fact that Lincoln was word-perfect at Gettysburg? If he had misread his notes and said: "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall...perish from the earth" would we know about his slip of the tongue, or is it reasonable to assume that those who reported the speech would have realised that he accidentally left out the word "not" and would have inserted it into the record?

I put this forward by way of example, not to generate a debate about the Gettysburg Address!

On a personal note, when taking video on holiday in unusual and dramatic places (for example Greenland) I always do a little speech to camera to provide context. Sometimes I leave out a significant word, without realising at the time. It happens.

Whether Armstrong accidentally left out "a" or ran it together with "for" ('one small step fra man...') it is his quotation, and he is on record as confirming that he intended to say 'for a man." Therefore, let the historical record show "A MAN."

David Carey
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posted 06-02-2013 04:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Carey   Click Here to Email David Carey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've often wondered about voice-operated-switch (VOX) or squelching hardware in the communications loop as a source of lost audio.

Theoretically, it seems like such circuits (and their potential for audio clipping) could be found almost anywhere in the chain from microphone interface to RF radio(s).

Finally poked around and found this 2006 update to the Honeysuckle Creek website (bottom of page).

The page appears to confirm the use of VOX, and raises the notion of its potential to drop fragments in the communications, but doesn't reference squelch effects.

Importantly the writeup also leaves open the question of whether time was even available to 'fit in the A'. Perhaps the dialect study will help refine basic plausibility and how much time is 'enough'.

In any case, pointers to solid technical research on VOX/squelch and their role (or non-role) in the debate would be appreciated.

David C
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posted 06-02-2013 07:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A contributor here posted a link to an interview with the late Mr. Armstrong on a European (German? Swiss?) show who's name escapes me but it seemed to be set on a very showy stage in an aircraft museum. They persuaded him to repeat his famous words, and blow me if it didn't sound exactly the same. So either he made exactly the same mistake, or it's just his style of speech. The latter I think.

Not that it's of any importance at all.

NAAmodel#240
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posted 06-02-2013 07:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Bill O'Donnell, a PAO at NASA Headquarters, interviewed Armstrong on his return including what his first words on the Moon were. Armstrong replied that his quote included the "a" but he suspected that VOX clipped the letter. Historians should report what was said and not what was heard.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-02-2013 08:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NAAmodel#240:
Historians should report what was said and not what was heard.
But isn't what was heard also part of history?

That this is even a question at all is part of the history of the event — just as how and where people watched the moon landing unfold, and what their reactions to the landing were. It is part of the cultural history of the space program.  

NAAmodel#240
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posted 06-02-2013 08:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NAAmodel#240   Click Here to Email NAAmodel#240     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
True. What folks hear and how they respond to it is certainly valid.

David C
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posted 06-03-2013 03:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by David C:
So either he made exactly the same mistake, or it's just his style of speech. The latter I think.
What are the chances of Ohio State University or Michigan State University having me as an honorary speech scientist?

328KF
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posted 06-03-2013 08:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by David C:
They persuaded him to repeat his famous words, and blow me if it didn't sound exactly the same.
I think I have posted the link to this before, but here it is. It was filmed at the Newseum in Washington D.C. during the 30th anniversary of the flight.

Armstrong seems caught off guard, but when he says it you can definitely pick up the dialect and how it might have been missed.

moorouge
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posted 06-03-2013 01:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having watched the video posted above, Armstrong was asked to repeat what he said when he first stepped onto the Moon. If he did indeed leave out the 'a', an accurate repetition would leave it out also.

I note that the piece on the home page posted by Robert says "...entirely possible". This leaves a whole area of doubt and is a million miles away from being absolutely certain that Armstrong in fact did say "a man".

People do tend to hear what they want to hear especially when advocating that their opinion is the correct interpretation.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-03-2013 02:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The MSU and OSU researchers are very clear that they haven't definitively identified the indefinite particle allegedly missing from Neil Armstrong's famous first words.
"We've bolstered Neil Armstrong's side of the story," [Laura Dilley, an assistant professor in Michigan State University's department of communicative sciences and disorders] said. "We feel we've partially vindicated him. But we will most likely never know for sure exactly what he said based on the acoustic information."
But writing that off as "people tend hear what they want to hear" somewhat dismisses their research as speech scientists and psychologists. Were it that simple, there would be no reason for their professions.

Rather, they approached the question from their area of expertise and presented a reason that fits within the data collected for why the 'a' might go unnoticed. They reported those results while acknowledging that the study was not conclusive.

Rob Joyner
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posted 06-03-2013 05:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I think the whole thing is overblown. Researchers can research all the data they want, but even those results come down to their own interpretations. There are SO many accents and dialects used everywhere, even within the same cities, that even trained professionals will come to different personal conclusions. Armstrong need not be vindicated.

Do I think people from Nu Yohk, Cahlaforynyah and Warshingtun speak funny? Yep. Being from the South, I prob'ly sound funny to anyone from those places too. As for Armstrong's 'a', I hear it. That's the way we talk 'round here too. "Is that yellow?" turns into "Zat yella?". "Did you know that?" turns into "Juno that?". Many Southerners run words together and also hardly ever use that 'g' on the end of a word. Other dialects have their own differences, and it seems that from listening to Armstrong repeat his famous words again on the above video that he also certainly ran some words together. When I say those famous words, I run the "for" and the "a" together too, but when I write it, I write it as "for a". That's because I'm saying "uh" and not "aay".

Now think about this - what if Armstrong had instead said, "That's one small step for an American." How many people would have sworn he said, "That's one small step, foreign American"?

People will ultimately hear anything they want to hear, including researchers. If you don't hear it, then you don't hear it. But I do...playnuz day.

David C
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posted 06-04-2013 05:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David C     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
I think I have posted the link to this before, but here it is.
Thanks, that illustrates my point perfectly. However, I've just remembered that the show I was referring to was an episode of the Austrian show "Hanger 7". Someone here posted it.

I agree that this is incredibly overblown. As far as I'm concerned the written quote should pretty obviously include the 'a'.

kr4mula
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posted 06-04-2013 12:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My quibble with the speech analysis is that the comparison with other Wapakoneta isn't perhaps valid. Armstrong wasn't native to that town. He lived in places around Ohio, where his family moved several times because of his dad's job. That makes it less likely that he would develop a hard specific regional accent. As an almost-native Ohioan, I can tell definite differences in accent between the northern half of the state (much more like Chicago) and the southern half (much more like Kentucky), along with a more traditional midwest accent in the central area. It's also important that his parents weren't native to that area, either, and their accents would influence his. Having grown up in a relatively small Ohio town, I can also see pronounced differences in accents between the people who lived there for generations and others (like me) who moved there even as small children.

My point is: they may be making too much of this suppposed slurring due to regional accents.

I think it's much more likely that Armstrong just forgot the "a." He said he didn't come up with the phrase until the (relatively speaking) last minute, so it's not like he had a lot of time to rehearse it, nor did he write it down.

mooncollector
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posted 07-26-2013 08:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mooncollector   Click Here to Email mooncollector     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I really believe that this is a problem for the field of linguistics as opposed to a matter of technology or physics of radio transmission.

Linguists understand that the physiology of the human tongue, teeth, lips and mouth structures works in ways not completely understood. The very fact that accents, intonations, pitches, etc., exist in the human voice at all, demonstrates that no two human beings are likely to have EXACTLY the same voice. No one knows what Lincoln or Washington sounded like and that is impossible TO know for those men who lived before the technology of sound recording. Generalizations or descriptions can't come close to the subjective nature of our perception in some of the senses.

Can you exactly describe a smell by any means other than comparing it to a known quantity of some other smell? Or maybe some people smell roses one way, and some in a totally different way. How could we ever know that? There is a particular industrial odor remover that I can smell for DAYS after even being exposed the slightest bit to it, and that smell induces anxiety and depression for me, that others who know me can't understand.

My point is... no two human beings will ever say that phrase in exactly the same way. But speech physiology is such that the transition from "for" to "man" involves an infinitesimal roll of the tongue and a lip motion that could easily slur a vowel to unintelligibility. An Ohio native who is immersed in Midwestern dialect could easily have said "a" in such a way that it is impossible to pick it out of the transition.

I personally believe it's there, but it blends in too seamlessly to be detectable. It is lost in the guttural transition from the ending "r" to the "m". It is virtually impossible to keep from making that almost instantaneous, almost subliminal guttural "uh" between those 2 consonants... and that is what "a" sounds like in non-enunciated speech.

I wish a linguist or teacher of speech or diction could chime in on this...

Pitulfsatten
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posted 09-25-2013 01:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pitulfsatten   Click Here to Email Pitulfsatten     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
He said the sentence with poor diction and that's it. I'm not sure why this is a big deal for some.

ejectr
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posted 09-26-2013 08:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ejectr   Click Here to Email ejectr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe he did say the "a". What sense would it be to say the same thing twice. If he left out the "a " on purpose, the word "man" would be defined as meaning "mankind"... like the term "my fellow man". Well, he says the word "mankind" distinctly in the second phrase of the statement. Why would he knowingly do that.

I personally can't hear the "a". But I choose to think that Neil knew how to speak correctly.

Andy L
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posted 10-03-2013 10:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Andy L     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Whilst reading Milton Thompson's "At the Edge of Space" I came across the following dialog on page 105, relating to Neil's flight of the number 3 X-15, on 20 April 1962 (the longest flight of the X-15 program).
Neil: "Rog. OK, the landing will be on runway three-five south lake and will be [a] straight-in approach and I'm at 32'000, going to use some brakes to make it. OK, I'm about... approaching... pretty hard to tell from here."
The use of the [a] in the text would, to me at least, indicate that just perhaps that was just the way that he spoke at times. Another American use of language that, to British ears at least, sounds unusual would be something like "I wrote you," with the dropping of the word "to." I have heard this a number of times from people of that generation.

Obviousman
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posted 10-03-2013 10:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Obviousman   Click Here to Email Obviousman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nothing has yet gone any way to convincing me that Mr Armstrong said the "a"; the transmission quality was sufficient that it should have been heard (if said) and in my opinion I can hear in his voice, at the end of the famous words, the tinge of realisation that he didn't quite say what he meant to.

And as always: we all know what he meant. That is the significance of the words.

Still, I wish he had followed the advice of an unknown astronaut:

"If you guys have any balls, you'll shout WHAT THE HELL IS THAT then shut off your suit mikes!".

moorouge
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posted 10-04-2013 12:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I agree. There is research that went into trying to prove the 'a'. As I recall, after all the effort, that report concluded that it was only possible that there was an 'a'. There was no conclusive proof that it was said.

ozspace
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posted 10-04-2013 01:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ozspace   Click Here to Email ozspace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
Armstrong seems caught off guard, but when he says it you can definitely pick up the dialect and how it might have been missed.
I believe that this is the best possible evidence that Neil did indeed say the 'a'. The way he spoke simply did not clearly separate.

That, plus the radio link, meant it was not heard as distinct 'a', exactly as he repeated in 1999. Let's fix up the famous quote to include the 'a' and put this to bed!

Gonzo
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posted 10-04-2013 07:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gonzo   Click Here to Email Gonzo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having grown up in extreme north-eastern Indiana (we were only 8 miles from Ohio and 12 from Michigan), I too can attest to the dialect. It would have been combined as previously described. So, personally, I believe he did say it.

However, to borrow a phrase, you are all being "Sheldons." What does it really matter whether or not he said it? The recording is what it is. If you believe he said it, great. If you don't think so, that's fine too. In the end, the phrase is as described, with the "a" because that's what he said he said. Whether you can hear it or not is immaterial. Isn't his word good enough to believe it's there?


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