Was the walk on the moon one small step for man, or a man?
Neil Armstrong’s first words from the moon were heard all over Earth, and Earth heard this:
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
But Armstrong said immediately after the 1969 landing that he had been misquoted. He said he actually said, “That’s one small step for ‘a’ man.” It’s just that people just didn’t hear it.
The astronaut acknowledged in a rare interview in 1999 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,” Armstrong 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.”
Although no in the world heard the “‘a,” some research backs Armstrong.
In 2006, a computer analysis found evidence that Armstrong said what he said he said.
Peter Shann Ford, an Australian computer programmer, ran a software analysis looking at sound waves and found a wave that would have been the missing “a.” It lasted 35 milliseconds, much too quick to be heard. The Smithsonian’s space curator, Roger Launius, looked at the evidence and found it convincing.
NASA has also stood by its moon man.
“If Neil Armstrong says there was an ‘a,’ then as far as we’re concerned, there was ‘a,’” NASA spokesman Michael Cabbage said shortly before the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.
Armstrong, who died Saturday at age 82, maintained until the end that there was a lost word in his famous words from the moon.
“I thought about it after landing,” he said in a 2011 NASA oral history. “And because we had a lot of other things to do, it was not something that I really concentrated on, but just something that was kind of passing around subliminally or in the background. But it, you know, was a pretty simple statement, talking about stepping off something. Why, it wasn’t a very complex thing. It was what it was.”