Thursday, June 04, 2009

One Small Step for Man

A few years ago I linked to a story about how some analysis of the recordings of the transmissions from Apollo 11 indicated that my namesake Neil Armstrong did in fact say, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" upon setting foot on the surface of the Moon, and that the "a" had been lost in the transmission.

Now the BBC is reporting that further analysis of cleaner recordings indicates that that was not the case, and that Armstrong did indeed flub his historic pronouncement. Well, nobody's perfect. The analysis of Armstrong's speech did indicate that he intended to contrast "a man" with "mankind," and not just "man," which in this context would mean the same thing as "mankind," and thus not make very much sense.

Regardless, it's a wonderful sentiment. Armstrong humbled himself by attributing the glory of the achievement to humanity as a whole, not just himself, not just the Apollo team, and not just the United States of America. And he did so with a poetic use of contrast remembered for the ages even with the dropped word.

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