Before the world heard the sentence that has since been etched into billions of memories — “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” — nobody was sure just what the NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong would actually say when he touched the ground on the moon. Here’s a little pre-landing speculation from a reporter at a Florida newspaper, near the Kennedy Space Center launch site.

July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong

World speculates on historic words

SPACE CENTER, Houston — The first words Neil Armstrong utters from the moon’s surface this weekend will go down in history one way or another.

It’s the “another” that has phrase-conscious historians worried.

The problem is Armstrong himself. His tremendous scientific abilities don’t extend to turning colorful phrases, and he is not likely to bring tears to earthlings’ eyes with anything that would threaten the Gettysburg Address.

Armstrong not told what to say

The astronaut has said repeatedly no one has told him what to say on the moon. And although there have been thousands of suggestions from the general public he says NASA’s flock of flacks haven’t prepared a speech for him.

“It will all depend on my emotions once I get there,” he told a recent press conference. “I don’t know what my emotions will be.” (Incidentally, that was his most memorable quote of the conference.)

>> Also see: Nixon memo: In case of moon disaster (1969)

Some wags put tongue in cheek and say he has no emotions. They recall the Gemini 8 flight when an electrical short circuit in a thruster forced him to manually bring the craft to a safe emergency splashdown.

The world was on edge there for awhile, but Armstrong didn’t seem to have any emotions.

Words from the man on the moon

So, when Neil Armstrong slips down from the lunar module, countless millions of people around the world will be watching and listening.

And the first words they hear might be something like:

“Well, here I am on the moon . . .”

>> See how it all ended up going down here! Moon landing video & transcript (1969)

The first footprint on the moon - Courtesy NASA


About this story

Source publication: The Orlando Sentinel (Florida)

Source publication date: July 18, 1969

Notes: All photos courtesy NASA

Filed under: 1960s, Celebrities & famous people, Science & technology

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