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One small step

July 20, 2019

I’ve just heard (on BBC Breakfast) a recording of Neil Armstrong’s famous utterance as he stepped onto the surface of the moon. What he was supposed to say, in words scripted by NASA, was ‘One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’. That makes sense, contrasting the step of an individual with a leap by the whole human race. However, in the excitement of the moment he fluffed his lines and said ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ – leaving out the indefinite article and thus making nonsense of the speech, because in such a context man and mankind mean exactly the same thing.

I wonder if he got told off for that?

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Tests have been run on what he said and it seems, as he himself claimed, he did include the errant “a” but it was lost in some sort of sound bump. In any case it’s understandable if he did get it wrong – he had quite a lot on his mind at the time!

    • Oh, I didn’t know that. My apologies to Neil Armstrong! Must be very galling to be accused of saying something wrong when you said it right and the sound engineers let you down.

  2. Simon Carter permalink

    Whoever wrote the line can’t have been too pleased either but at least it’s been remembered – even it it was for the wrong reason.

  3. Cherylene permalink

    There is an interesting article in “Popular Science” which reports that Neil Armstrong’s Ohio accent could have merged the “for a” into “for uh”, sounded together. They have slowed down the recording so you can make up your own mind whether the “a” was missed, or not.

  4. Thanks Cherlyene. Yes – I have had a few comments which have made me aware that I didn’t look into this closely enough. I just repeated a story I had heard. Next time I do a post about a historic event I will do some proper research!

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