You've been hearing it again for at least a week: the scratchy, 50-year-old audio of Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the moon's surface, becoming the first man to do so, and saying
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
But as a story from the Associated Press which appeared in the Sunday, July 21, 2019 edition of the Chicago Tribune stated, that wasn't what Armstrong had planned to say.
"Armstrong said there was a lost word in his famous one-liner from the moon: 'That's one small step for "a" man,' " according to the AP story.
But people didn't hear it.
In 1999, during a 30th anniversary celebration of Apollo 11, commander Armstrong "acknowledged 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," he 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."
I always knew I liked him. He was that Serious about words.
Meanwhile, the report continues, "computer analysis of sound waves found evidence that Armstrong said what he said he said."
Armstrong died at age 82 in 2012.
The story leaves me wondering about the comparative strengths of the 2006 computer that analyzed those sound waves and the 1969 computers that got Armstrong and his colleagues, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, to the moon's Tranquility Base in the first place.
We owe Apollo 11 more than we can imagine. For people my age, the whole celebration is a reminder of the marvels of seeing new things, the joys of learning, and exciting good news.
"Fly me to the moon, and let me play among the stars," indeed.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
Filed under: Expressions