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  "One small step" revisited: Scripted or ad-libbed

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Author Topic:   "One small step" revisited: Scripted or ad-libbed
kr4mula
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From: Cinci, OH
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posted 01-03-2013 06:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A renewed "controversy" over Neil Armstrong's first words after stepping on the moon has been the subject of some discussion on local (Cincinnati) radio and newspaper. Apparently Armstrong's brother says that Neil came up with the words ahead of time and even shared them with him.

This article from the Cincinnati Enquirer spells it out.

For a while upon returning to Earth, Armstrong intimated that he just thought the line up spontaneously. Later, he said he had had time to think about what to say in the hours between landing on the moon and stepping down the ladder. Years later, ever the mystery, he seemed to suggest that perhaps he spent time crafting the line before launch.

Now, Dean Armstrong, Neil’s younger brother, says Neil knew exactly what he would say well before takeoff. In an interview with the BBC, Dean says that one evening, while playing the board game Risk, Neil handed Dean the line that he was planning to say.

Wehaveliftoff
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posted 01-03-2013 06:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Wehaveliftoff   Click Here to Email Wehaveliftoff     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Pants On Fire...

Oddly, this hasn't come up until after his passing on the whatever world(s) awaits us all, a small step or one giant leap, that will be.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-03-2013 06:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
collectSPACE
Neil Armstrong's first words on the moon: one small fib or giant leap by brother?

Were Neil Armstrong's historic first words spoken on the moon pre-scripted or, as the late astronaut long held, ad-libbed on the spot?

Armstrong, on becoming the first person to step foot onto another planetary body on July 20, 1969, radioed back to Earth, "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." His quote instantly became a part of history. (The "a" wasn't audible in the broadcast but the astronaut said — and a 2006 audio analysis supported — that he did indeed speak the word.)

Since returning to Earth four decades ago and up until his death last year, Armstrong maintained that he did not give any thought to what he would say while on the moon until after he safely landed the Apollo 11 lunar module "Eagle" at Tranquility Base.

But a new interview with his brother suggests Armstrong's "small step" quip was not a "giant leap" at improvisation...

(Additional discussion of this topic can be found under the thread for the BBC Two documentary for which Dean Armstrong was interviewed.)

moorouge
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posted 01-03-2013 07:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The 2006 audio analysis is most certainly an interesting read and quite persuasive. However, the author rather takes the edge off it when right at the end he says that the tongue, lip and throat formations needed to produce the wave are those of an 'ah' not an 'a'. So, to my mind, the analysis remains persuasive but not conclusive.

As with most data analysis, if one examines it with an assumption that you will find what you're looking for, you will nearly always find it. As an example of this one has only to remember the audio tapes from Dealey Plaza which some have claimed show multiple gunshots and multiple locations or those who are keen to advocate man-made climate change from analysis of the statistics.

Rusty B
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posted 01-03-2013 01:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty B   Click Here to Email Rusty B     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From a Youngstown Vindicator - Jul 21, 1969 newspaper interview of Neil's parents and neighbors about his first words spoken on the moon:

"We had no idea what he would say, I think it was great," Mrs. Armstrong said.

Rusty B
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posted 01-03-2013 01:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty B   Click Here to Email Rusty B     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"First Words From The Moon? Who Knows"

Article from The Tuscaloosa News - Jun 30, 1969, speculating about what the first words spoken on the moon by Armstrong would be.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 01-03-2013 05:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If Dean's account is correct, then he is contradicting his brother, who told James Hansen (in "First Man") that he spent no time thinking about what he would say until after he landed on the moon.

Armstrong's first wife Janet, as well as his crewmates, also told Hansen that they had no idea what Armstrong would say and that he did not discuss it with them.

Actually, both are wrong. Neil's first words were, "Good luck, Mr. Gorsky."

Jay Chladek
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posted 01-03-2013 08:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Please don't start with that Gorsky joke. Its pretty old and stale (and kind of dumb, although yes it is funny in its perverted way).

The way Neil spoke his words when he stepped off the footpad and considering it sounded sort of monotone, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to know that Neil had either written the words down somewhere to see how they sounded if he read them out loud or at least gone over them in his head. The tone in which they were spoken didn't sound spontaneous like his words regarding the LM footpads, the appearance of the lunar soil and the length of the LM strut just before he stepped off.

Neil was a thoughtful guy and I've no doubt he put more than just a spontaneous thought into those words in the seconds he was standing on the footpad. Every engineer knows sometimes you have to put things down on paper, especially if you want to check the math (or in this case, the vocabulary). Neil being engineering minded and not one for small talk probably tackled the problem in an engineering sort of way so he was prepared because he kept getting hounded by people on the topic leading up to the flight and he wanted it taken care of (cross off that part of the checklist as it were). But regardless of if he came up with that phrase while on Earth or on the lunar surface, he still came up with it himself and nobody else did it for him. The rest is just arguing semantics.

If his brother is indeed telling the truth, more power to him. Anyone who has a sibling knows that sometimes you can have a unique bond with one member of your family that you don't quite have with even other members of the family and sometimes you share some pretty deep secrets with them that you won't with anyone else.

spaceman1953
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posted 01-03-2013 09:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceman1953   Click Here to Email spaceman1953     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can never, ever get tired of seeing that picture of Neil and Hansen together. "I" always wanted to be the "official biographer" but never told anyone that! HA!

And if I ever ran into Neil's brother Dean on the street, he would have to tell me who he was, because I sure do not see a family resemblance.

The very first time I was in Wapakoneta, Ohio in 1969, and I made my parents drive me over to 912 Neil Armstrong Drive to "check it out" and when we were back by the garage and a man (no doubt Neil's father) was moving the trash can around... boy, did I ever want to do my FIRST dumpster diving that day, before the word was invented!

Like my brother always said, "Speed, if you were rich, they would call you 'eccentric' but since you are poor, they just call you 'crazy.'"

schnappsicle
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posted 01-04-2013 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
To me the most significant thing about the story is that Neil had time to play Risk before going to the moon. From everything I read, the crew could have used a few more months of training, but decided to go anyway because the risk of being over-prepared was a greater risk at that point.

Like everyone else, I see no difference when he came up with his line. The important thing is it's the perfect line for the moment.

Since we're on the topic, I was wondering if anyone knows what Neil's heart rate was at the moment he stepped off the LM. I know mine was highly elevated. I can only imagine what Neil's must have been. Perhaps his high heart rate contributed to his monotone voice as he took his first step. Of course, that's pure speculation, but I'd think he would have wanted to get the words out exactly right. The pressure to do something that precise with that many people watching and listening must have been excruciating, even for Neil.

Rick
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posted 01-04-2013 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rick   Click Here to Email Rick     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have always maintained that Neil NEVER spoke the phrase "one small step for a man," and that he immediately caught his slip. I believe that could very well be the reason for the slight pause and also for the tone in his voice, almost as if he was doing a Homer Simpson "dooooh" head slap.

mikepf
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posted 01-04-2013 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The link to this story on the Yahoo News page the other day was headed "Neil Armstrong Lied." It pretty well ticked me off.

I guess Yahoo thinks there just isn't enough negativity in the news these days.

p51
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posted 01-04-2013 12:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for p51   Click Here to Email p51     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does it really matter if he made it up on the spot or weeks before? Haven't we overshadowed the act of going there with something really trivial like when he thought to say that line?

Frankly, Aldrin saying, "Contact" was probably the first word spoken on the Moon, so I've never understood why the "one small step" line was such a big deal...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-04-2013 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The point, if there is one, is that Armstrong himself said clearly and repeatedly that he did not give thought to his first words until he was on the moon. Achieving the landing was much more important in his mind.

His brother has now contradicted that account.

The quote is among the most famous words ever recorded by history, hence the increased interest.

Rusty B
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posted 01-04-2013 01:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty B   Click Here to Email Rusty B     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The story I cited above from, June 30, 1969, shows that there was public speculation about what would be said.

With possibly a billion people waiting to hear those words, there had to be tremendous pressure to come up with something good.

Armstrong had to have thought about what he was going to say ahead of time, who wouldn't have?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-04-2013 01:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
First words wouldn't matter if the landing didn't proceed safely. It would seem a greater priority to focus on the task at hand and leave what to say to the hours he would have after the pressure was lifted. First things first, as they were...

Besides, Armstrong never seemed very much concerned with what other people thought about him or his activities. There are numerous examples of his ignoring societal pressure.

schnappsicle
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posted 01-04-2013 01:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by p51:
Frankly, Aldrin saying, "Contact" was probably the first word spoken on the Moon, so I've never understood why the "one small step" line was such a big deal...
From the things I've read, you are correct. "Contact" was the first word spoken after the the first lunar landing. What makes Armstrong's quote so historic is that his are the first words spoken by a man actually standing on the surface of the moon. Perhaps you don't see the difference, but to the rest of us, there is a significant and profound difference.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-04-2013 01:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Which raises an interesting point: if we ignore for a moment Dean Armstrong's account and go only by what Neil Armstrong said, then he put more importance (or at least planning) into the words spoken upon landing on the moon than he did stepping onto the moon.

Though it was a well-kept secret at the time, he sought permission to name the landing site "Tranquility Base." And based on his statements about taking more pride in the landing than the first step, Armstrong may have considered his call out, "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed," as more historic than his "small step" quote.

mjanovec
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posted 01-04-2013 02:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Which raises an interesting point: if we ignore for a moment Dean Armstrong's account and go only by what Neil Armstrong said, then he put more importance (or at least planning) into the words spoken upon landing on the moon than he did stepping onto the moon.

I think it's very plausible that this is the case. Landing on the moon was the more difficult accomplishment than walking on the moon. And as a pilot, Armstrong would naturally place more emphasis on flying the LM (and landing it successfully) than he would on walking on the lunar surface.

Paul78zephyr
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posted 01-04-2013 08:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, Dean sure looks alot like Neil. Does anyone know of any pictures of the two of them together?

Assuming that Neil Armstrong came up with those words himself, and I have no reason to believe he did not, then why does it even matter when he thought of them?

Paul78zephyr
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posted 01-04-2013 08:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul78zephyr     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by schnappsicle:
"Contact" was the first word spoken after the the first lunar landing.
Actually to focus on the first 'word' spoken on the moon (Contact) would be like focusing on Neil Armstrong's first word from the surface (That's). Aldrin's first wordS from the moon (which directly preceded Armstrong's famous pronouncement):
Contact light. Okay Engine Stop. ACA out of Detent. Mode Control, both Auto. Descent Engine Command Override, Off. Engine Arm, Off. 413 is in.

328KF
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posted 01-04-2013 10:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Though it was a well-kept secret at the time, he sought permission to name the landing site "Tranquility Base." And based on his statements about taking more pride in the landing than the first step, Armstrong may have considered his call out, "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed," as more historic than his "small step" quote.
I'd like to expand on Robert's point a bit. According to multiple sources, Armstrong took great care to keep his planned announcement of the landing site name secret. According to Andy Chaikin's book:
For the landing, Armstrong gave some though to quotes; before the flight he and Aldrin decided that if they reached the lunar surface they would use the call sign "Tranquility Base"--"base" to connote exploration. They told only Charlie Duke, lest the first words from the moon take him by surprise--"Say again, Apollo 11?" And when it finally happened, Armstrong found himself adding quite spontaneously, "The Eagle has landed."
So even though it was planned and only known by a few, it didn't go off without a hitch. (Duke initially responded with "Roger Twang...") Now if Armstrong had a fully prepared and planned statement ready for his first step, doesn't logic follow that he would have shared that with, at the very least, Capcom Bruce McCandless? It seems that if he were concerned with getting it correct or not having anyone ruin it for history by talking over him, he would have taken equal precautions.

Armstrong was a unique person, as has been well documented. As a pilot, he saw a landing as the historic moment, not the step off of the vehicle which he landed, regardless of where he landed it. Many other famous and lesser pilots likely understand this. Did Orville Wright or Lindbergh or Yeager make a planned statement after stepping out of their flying machines? No, but they didn't have a live TV audience of millions waiting to hear what they had to say, either (Lindbergh was quoted as saying simply, "Well, I made it," when the crowds reached his aircraft).

Armstrong was fully aware of this, yet for all of these decades the memories of everyone close to Armstrong and the mission have agreed... he did not have a formal statement prepared. I think it is a little late to start rewriting history now, or perhaps too early, based upon one 40+ year old recollection.

Thinking toward the future, I hope that the next person to step on the moon, or an asteroid, or Mars, is equally spontaneous. I often found the prepared and read remarks following shuttle landings to pretty long-winded. I know there will be pressure, and probably more so in that he or she will have to follow up Neil's quote. But I would leave it to the person to find something appropriate, rather than it going through some approval process at NASA HQ.

And if that astronaut wants to run it by me in advance, I promise I'll never tell anyone.

mikepf
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posted 01-04-2013 11:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikepf   Click Here to Email mikepf     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just read a reply about all this by Andrew Chaikin on Space.com. I give a great big THANK YOU Mr Chaikin, for standing up for Neil now that he is not here to respond to all the headlines calling him a liar. I don't know who came up with the term "lamestream media", but it is certainly appropriate in this case. I must say that I am a bit surprised by the lack of the offense about this that I, and Mr Chaikin, seem to have felt over this.

moorouge
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posted 01-05-2013 07:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for moorouge   Click Here to Email moorouge     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wonder if there would be all this controversy if he'd said something really memorable, like "It IS cheese - Caerphilly!"

Lou Chinal
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posted 01-05-2013 11:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I side with the camp that says; "Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed."

That is what Neil would have thought about, the landing, not the walk.

schnappsicle
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posted 01-07-2013 06:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for schnappsicle   Click Here to Email schnappsicle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
Now if Armstrong had a fully prepared and planned statement ready for his first step, doesn't logic follow that he would have shared that with, at the very least, Capcom Bruce McCandless?
The answer to that would seem to be a logical "No". In the few minutes before the landing, Deke Slayton tapped Charlie Duke on the shoulder and told him to be vewwy vewwy quiet. The greater logic tells me that McCandless, knowing the historic implications of the moment would also have wanted to remain quiet and let Armstrong do the talking. Also, Neil went on a 90 second detailed description of the lunar surface after coming down the ladder and before putting the first boot print on the lunar surface, which I'm sure the people in the back room would have wanted to hear, giving McCandless even greater impetus to remain silent.

Basically, it seems to me that throughout the history of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, the Capcoms knew the seriousness of each moment and were respectful of the men who were putting their lives on the line in the name of exploration. None more important than the first lunar landing.

robsouth
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posted 01-07-2013 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for robsouth     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As Alan Shepard descended the LM ladder, McCandless said, 'Not bad for an old man', it would appear that he wasn't always that serious when on capcom duty.

dom
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posted 01-07-2013 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Paul78zephyr:
Assuming that Neil Armstrong came up with those words himself, and I have no reason to believe he did not, then why does it even matter when he thought of them?
Exactly. This really would only be a big issue if it turned out the phrase was written by some NASA PR person and handed to Armstrong on a piece of paper just before the flight!

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