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Published: Monday, July 20, 2009, 12:01 a.m.

'One small step...': What Neil Armstrong really said

  • Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (right) trudges across the surface of the moon, leaving behind footprints, on July 20, 1969. The U.S. flag, planted...

    NASA

    Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong (right) trudges across the surface of the moon, leaving behind footprints, on July 20, 1969. The U.S. flag, planted on the surface by the astronauts can be seen between Armstrong and the lunar module.

  • From left, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Maj. Gen. Michael Collins, pose for a portrait in front of a lunar module device at the Smithsonian National A...

    From left, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Maj. Gen. Michael Collins, pose for a portrait in front of a lunar module device at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington on Sunday, July 19, 2009. (AP Photo/The Washington Post, Marcus Yam) ** WASHINGTON TIMES OUT, NEW YORK TIMES OUT, USA TODAY OUT, DC EXAMINER OUT, NO SALES, NO ARCHIVES, NO MAGAZINES, MANDATORY CREDIT **

  • NASA
Framed in the shadow of the lunar module lander, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong steps down from the lander and becomes the first man to set f...

    NASA Framed in the shadow of the lunar module lander, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong steps down from the lander and becomes the first man to set foot on the moon, on July 20, 1969.

WASHINGTON — When Neil Armstrong first spoke from the moon, he said one thing and people on Earth heard another.
What the world heard was grammatically flubbed: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
Armstrong insists he said: “That’s one small step for ‘a’ man.” It’s just that people just didn’t hear it.
Science, and NASA, back up Armstrong.
“The ‘a’ was intended,” Armstrong said in 1999. “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.”
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.
Experts at the Smithsonian Institution looked at the evidence and it was convincing, said Smithsonian space curator Roger Launius.
“I find the technology interesting and useful,” Armstrong said in a statement. “I also find his conclusion persuasive.”
And NASA stands 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.


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