Monday, August 27, 2012
RIP _ Neil Armstrong
Read about the continuing mystery (and missquote?) around those most famous words...
Armstrong underwent a heart-bypass surgery earlier this month, just two days after his birthday on August 5, to relieve blocked coronary arteries.
His family announced his death today (local time).
As commander of the Apollo 11 mission, Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969. As he stepped on the dusty surface, Armstrong said: "“That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."
Those words endure as one of the best known quotes in the English language.
Buzz Aldrin, his crew-mate on the Apollo 11 mission and the second man on the moon paid tribute to Armstrong today via Twitter.
"On behalf of the Aldrin family we extend our deepest condolences to Carol & the entire Armstrong family on Neil's passing. He will be missed."
US President Barack Obama also praised Armstrong following news of his death.
Michael Collins, who flew to the moon with Armstrong and served as the command module pilot said: ''He was the best, and I will miss him terribly.''
NASA chief Charles Bolden recalled Armstrong's grace and humility in a statement on Saturday. ''As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind's first small step on a world beyond our own."
That's one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind.
— Neil A. Armstrong, Commander Apollo 11, first words spoken by a man walking on another heavenly body, received at 9:56 pm local time in Houston (Mission Elapsed Time 109:24:13), as Armstrong stepped off the LM 'Eagle' and onto the Moon in the Mare Tranquilitatis (Sea of Tranquility), 20 July 1969.
The link to the audio: http://www.skygod.com/audiovideo/onesmallstep.mp3
the link to the tv footage: http://www.skygod.com/audiovideo/apollo11.mpeg
This, the most famous space line ever spoken, heard live by an estimated audience of 450 million people, was initially recorded without the 'a'. The next day's New York Times (21 July 1969) reported the line several times without it, including on the front page and as the 'Quotation of the Day' (on page 35). Armstrong didn't realize the 'a' was not heard until after he got back to Earth. The New York Times of 31 July 1969 had a short column about the 'a' back on page 20, saying that:
One small but important word was omitted in the official version of the historic utterance he made when he stepped on the moon 11 days ago. . . . The "a" apparently went unheard and unrecorded in the transmission because of static, a spokesman for the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston said in a telephone interview. What ever the reason, inserting the omitted article makes a slight but significant change in the meaning of Mr. Armstrong's words.
And so the debate started.
In the 1970 book First On The Moon, (the "exclusive and official account . . . as seen by the men who experienced it") Neil wrote his famous words with the 'a,' noting that Mission Control missed it. He writes "tape recorders are fallible." Lunar surface communications were voice-activated and sometimes subject to interference. When presented with a plaque by the builders of the Lunar Module, he pointed out their mistake in failing to include the 'a,' and was told that the word was not in the tapes. He insisted—at that time—that he had said it. However, when listening to the tape, many people do not hear the 'a.
So maybe he did not say it. Armstong was an amazing test pilot and aerospace engineer, but he had been awake for 24 hours at the time of the moonwalk. He was making history for the ages on live TV in the ultimate dangerous uncertain environment. He was not an actor used to reciting lines. Thirty years later he said: