— Neil A. Armstrong, Commander Apollo 11, first words spoken by a man walking on another heavenly body, received at 9:56 pm local time in Houston (Mission Elapsed Time 109:24:13), as Armstrong stepped off the LM 'Eagle' and onto the Moon in the Mare Tranquilitatis (Sea of Tranquility), 20 July 1969.
This, the most famous space line ever spoken, heard live by an estimated audience of 450 million people, was initially recorded without the 'a'. The next day's New York Times (21 July 1969) reported the line several times without it, including on the front page and as the 'Quotation of the Day' (on page 35). Armstrong didn't realize the 'a' was not heard until after he got back to Earth. The New York Times of 31 July 1969 had a short column about the 'a' back on page 20, saying that:
One small but important word was omitted in the official version of the historic utterance he made when he stepped on the moon 11 days ago… . The “a” apparently went unheard and unrecorded in the transmission because of static, a spokesman for the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston said in a telephone interview. What ever the reason, inserting the omitted article makes a slight but significant change in the meaning of Mr. Armstrong's words.
And so the debate started.
In the 1970 book First On The Moon, (the “exclusive and official account … as seen by the men who experienced it") Neil wrote his famous words with the 'a,' noting that Mission Control missed it. He writes “tape recorders are fallible.” Lunar surface communications were voice-activated and sometimes subject to interference. When presented with a plaque by the builders of the Lunar Module, he pointed out their mistake in failing to include the 'a,' and was told that the word was not in the tapes. He insisted — at that time — that he had said it. However, when listening to the tape, many people do not hear the 'a.
So maybe he did not say it. Armstong was an amazing test pilot and aerospace engineer, but he had been awake for 24 hours at the time of the moonwalk. He was making history for the ages on live TV in the ultimate dangerous uncertain environment. He was not an actor used to reciting lines. Thirty years later he said:
Of course, then again, maybe he did say it. In his 2006 official biography, First Man, Armstrong states,
The Times of London reported on 2 October 2006 that by using high-tech sound analysis techniques an Australian computer expert has rediscovered the missing letter. Peter Shann Ford ran the NASA recording through sound-editing software and “clearly picked up an acoustic wave from the word 'a,' finding that Mr. Armstrong spoke it at a rate of 35 milliseconds — ten times too fast for it to be audible.” Neil Armstrong issued a statement saying: — I find the technology interesting and useful. I also find his conclusion persuasive. — However this analysis has been disputed by other audio experts and had not been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. In a June 2009 Popular Mechanics article, Armstrong “confirmed” that he did say the 'a.'
The most recent news comes from academic research at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing and The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, Ohio. They studied how speakers from central Ohio pronounce “for” and “a.” Their results suggest it is “entirely possible that Armstrong said what he claimed, though evidence indicates that people are statistically more likely to hear for man instead of for a man on the recording.” Laura Dilley of MSU states in a press release that,
My take on this? He was saying the 'a,' but the physical exertion, lack of sleep, and the gravity of the moment combined to rob Armstrong of his normally clear Ohio speaking voice. The way he naturally says the phrase makes the 'a' soft; watch as Tim Russert politely ambushes him to repeat the phrase 30 years later (MP4). We could almost have the same debate over this tape! And so the debate continues, and thus I follow Armstrong's excellent idea of a parenthesis format.
Asked at the Apollo 11 postflight crew press conference when he had begun to think about what he would say and how long he pondered the words, Neil replied:
Asked years later if NASA suggested a line for him to say, Neil answered:
Interviewed at age 75 about the line, he said:
Some Apollo 11 devotees speculate that J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit was an influence on Armstrong, as it contains the phrase, “not a great leap for a man, but a leap in the dark.” In 1971 Armstrong named his farm Rivendell, which is a fictional location in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Coincidence? Well, there are more! A 19 April 1969 internal NASA memorandum contained the words “forward step for all mankind,” and noted that simply by landing on the moon, “a giant step will have been taken.” On the morning of Armstrong's walk, Walter Cronkite spoke of “a giant leap,” in turn echoing President Dwight Eisenhower's 1957 post-Sputnik call for “a giant leap into outer space.” Neil Armstrong has been told of all this, and says:
You never know subliminally in your brain where things come from… . But it certainly wasn't conscious. When an idea runs for the first time through your own mind, it comes out as an original thought. (First Man, 2006)
It is a great line, among the most meaningful aerospace lines ever, but did not impress everybody. Another explorer with a famous first — Edmund Hillary, first to climb Mount Everest — said it would have been, “better if he had said something natural like, 'Jesus, here we are!'” The July 1969 edition of Esquire magazine even had as its cover story famous writers discussing what the first words should be.
Armstrong's next words, right after the small step, show the expert descriptive test pilot at work:
Neil's partner on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, was next out the hatch. He said, “Be sure not to lock it on my way out.” (According to Buzz's 2009 book Magnificent Desolation the checklist said 'do not leave the hatch wide open.') Neil laughed at the joke, and said, “A particularly good thought!” With Buzz on the surface, Neil said, “Isn't that something? Magnificent sight out here.” Buzz replied with a powerful description of the Lunar scene in just two words:
Buzz later wrote, “It was a spontaneous utterance, an oxymoron that would take on ever-deeper dimensions of meaning in describing this strange new environment.” And in 2014, durring a Reddit intervew, said this:
When the eagle landed on the moon, I was speechless overwhelmed, like most of the world. Couldn't say a word. I think all I said was, “Wow! Jeez!” Not exactly immortal. Well, I was nothing if not human.
— Walter Cronkite, CBS news anchor, interview in Esquire magazine, April 2006.
Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but it's a long one for me.
— Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr., Commander Apollo 12 and the shortest Apollo astronaut, upon becoming the 3rd man to walk on the Moon, 19 November 1969. Regards the line he said later in a PBS interview:
"Well, nobody remembers the second and that was why I said what I said. It was based on a bet I had with somebody who felt that Neil's words had been propaganda and not written by him. And I tried to assure this person that that wasn't the case. And so it was in August of '69 before the fight when I made this bet: that I would say something that they would know that the United States government wasn't Big Brother telling us what to say. So I said, “It may have been small for Neil but it was a big one for a little fella like me” and it came out close to that. And I was right, nobody remembers what the second person said anyhow. And the only bad thing was the person that I made the bet with didn't pay off".
Al is on the surface. And it's been a long way, but we’re here.
— Alan Shepard, Commander Apollo 14, upon becoming the 5th (and oldest) man to walk on the Moon, 5 February 1971.
As I stand out here in the wonders of the unknown at Hadley, I sort of realize there's a fundamental truth to our nature, Man must explore … and this is exploration at its greatest.
— Dave Scott, Commander Apollo 15, upon becoming the 7th man to walk on the Moon, 31 July 1971.
There you are, mysterious and unknown Descartes highland plains. Apollo 16 is gonna change your image… .I’m sure glad they got ol' Brer Rabbit here, back in the briar patch where he belongs.
— John Young, Commander Apollo 16, upon becoming the 9th man to walk on the Moon, 21 April 1972. NASA says that the rabbit references come from the Joel Chandler Harris story “How Mr. Rabbit was too sharp for Mr. Fox". In the story, Brer Rabbit has become entangled with the Tar Baby and is caught by Brer Fox. Brer Fox thinks he might roast Brer Rabbit, who says, “I don't care what you do with me, Brer Fox, just so you don't fling me in that briar patch.” As it turns out, there is no firewood handy, so Brer Fox thinks about hanging Brer Rabbit, who says that would be much better than being thrown in the briar patch. And so on. On his fourth spaceflight, NASA has finally thrown John Young in the briar patch.
As I step off at the surface at Taurus-Littrow, I’d like to dedicate the first step of Apollo 17 to all those who made it possible.
— Gene Cernan, Commander Apollo 17, upon becoming the 11th man to walk on the Moon, 11 December 1972.
we’re number one on the runway.
— Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr), 21 hours and 36 minutes after landing on the moon, his reply to Houston's “Our guidance recommendation is PGNCS and you are cleared for takeoff.” The ascent stage rocket was then lit and Neil and Buzz left the moon.
Bob, this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man's last step from the surface, back home for some time to come - but we believe not too long into the future - I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America's challenge of today has forged man's destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus- Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.
— Gene Cernan, Commander Apollo 17. Last man to walk on the Moon, 14 December 1972.
— Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr), man's first words spoken on the Moon.
— Neil Armstrong, next words.
Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.
— Neil Armstrong, transmitting from the Moon, 3:18 p.m. Houston time 20 July 1969. This call and the phrase 'Tranquility Base' were unknown in advance to NASA. Buzz Aldrin later said in a PBS interview that:
As soon as we touched down, I knew we'd done it, but I knew that there were certain discrete times after the nominal touchdown, if something was wrong, you don't want to abort right away, you want to wait until this discrete time, because there are more favorable rendezvous conditions. After about two minutes, then it's too late really, because if you were to lift off after two minutes after the normal landing, Mike Collins is going around and around and he's too far ahead for you to catch up to him in a reasonable time, and he's going to have to do some other maneuvers so that you can catch up with him. So those first couple of minutes are very crucial to look around and see if everything is okay and hope that the Earth is measuring everything of the status of all your pressure systems, and your tanks, and your electrical systems, because if you do have to abort, you should do it right away. And I felt that that was a fairly critical time, so it surprised me that during that time, Neil chose to make the call to Houston Tranquility Base that the Eagle has landed. It surprised me a little bit, because we never trained to do that, because we didn't want to tell them back in the simulators in the training what we were going to say after we landed, and I expected he would wait until we'd been there [and] that we could monitor those things. But it's something that is a surprise, but then you understand — well, that's the way you should do it; you should call right away, things like that.
Anyway, the reply was:
Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.
— Charlie Duke, CapCom, Mission Control.
— Michael Collins, orbiting in the command module.
Houston, that may have seemed like a very long final phase. The autotargeting was taking us right into a … crater, with a large number of big boulders and rocks … and it required … flying manually over the rock field to find a reasonably good area.
— Neil Armstrong
Roger, we copy. It was beautiful from here, Tranquility. Over.
— Charlie Duke, CapCom
We'll get to the details of what's around here, but it looks like a collection of just about every variety of shape — angularity, granularity, about every variety of rock…. The colors — well…. There doesn't appear to be too much of a general color at all; however, it looks as though some of the rocks and boulders [are] going to have some interesting colors to them. Over.
— Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr)
Rog, Tranquility. Be advised there are lots of smiling faces in this room and all over the world. Over.
— Charlie Duke, CapCom
There are two of them up here.
— Neil Armstrong
And don't forget one in the command module…. And thanks for putting me on relay, Houston. I was missing all the action.
— Michael Collins
OK, let's get this mother out of here.
— Eugene Cernan, Commander Apollo 17. Reportedly (according to astronaut Walter Cunningham in his book, The All-American Boys) the last words spoken on the Moon. However the transcripts show Cernan saying right before takeoff, “Okay. Now, let's get off. Forget the camera” and the last words being Dr. Harrison Hagen “Jack” Schmitt saying, “3, 2, 1 … ignition” The LM lifted off the Moon at 22:54:37 GMT on 14 December 1972.
A little levity is appropriate in a dangerous trade.
— Walter M. Schirra Jr.
Unfortunately the suit is so stiff I can't do that with two hands, but I’m going to try an ol' sand trap shot here.
— Alan Shepard, Apollo 14, golfing on the Moon. How far did he hit the ball with his six iron? “miles and miles and miles!” 6 February 1971.
We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.
— President John F. Kennedy, speech to Special Joint Session of Congress, 25 May 1961. Read the whole speech at the JFK Presidential Library.
If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to all of us, as did Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere… Now it is time to take longer strides-time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth….we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule… Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share …
I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project…will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important…and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish…
— President John F. Kennedy, speech to Special Joint Session of Congress, 25 May 1961. At the time the US manned space program had about 15 minutes of actual time logged. Hear the whole speech, mp3 format.
If I could get but one message to you it would be simply this: The future of this country and the welfare of the free world depend upon our success in space. There is not room in this country for any but a fully cooperative, urgently motivated, all-out effort toward space leadership.
— Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, speech, Space Flight Report to the Nation, October 1961.
… the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward, and so will space.
— President John F. Kennedy, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 12 September,1962.
But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
— President John F. Kennedy, Rice University, Houston, Texas, 12 September,1962.
Pure oxygen at five pounds per square inch of pressure presents a fire hazard which is especially great on the launching pad… . Even a small fire creates toxic products of combustion; no fire-fighting methods have yet been developed that can cope with a fire in pure oxygen.
— Frank J. Handel, staff scientist with Apollo Space Sciences and Systems at North American, 'Gaseous Environments during Space Missions,' Journal of Space Craft and Rockets, July/August 1964.
With reliability figures and flight schedules as they are, the odds are that the first casualty in space will occur on the ground.
— Ronald G. Newswald, reviewing 'Factors in the Operation of Manned Space Chambers,' Science Journal, February 1966.
We are going to have failures. There are going to be sacrifices made in the program; we've been lucky so far. If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.
— Virgil 'Gus' Grissom. He said this after John Glenn returned from space, it was published after his death in Time magazine 3 February 1967. On 27 January 1967, astronauts Grissom, White, and Chaffee died from a flash fire aboard the Apollo 1 spacecraft during a ground test.
How do you expect to get us to the Moon if you people can't even hook us up with a ground station?
— Virgil 'Gus' Grissom, unhappy with radio communications during the plugs out test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft, 27 January 1967.
We've got a bad fire&mdashlet's get out … we’re burning up.
— Roger Chaffee, Apollo 1 test, Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom and Ed White were killed in the ground test, 27 January 1967.
It had been too late from the beginning.
— Jules Bergman, ABC News, TV report on Apollo 1 rescue efforts. 27 January 1967.
Spaceflight will never tolerate carelessness,
incapacity, and neglect. Somewhere, somehow, we screwed up. It could
have been in design, build, or test. Whatever it was, we should have
caught it. We were too gung ho about the schedule and we locked out all
of the problems we saw each day in our work. Every element of the
program was in trouble and so were we. The simulators were not working,
Mission Control was behind in virtually every area, and the flight and
test procedures changed daily. Nothing we did had any shelf life. Not
one of us stood up and said, 'Dammit, stop!' I Don't know what
Thompson's committee will find as the cause, but I know what I find. We
are the cause! We were not ready! We did not do our job. We were rolling
the dice, hoping that things would come together by launch day, when in
our hearts we knew it would take a miracle. We were pushing the schedule
and betting that the Cape would slip before we did.
— Gene Kranz, NASA Flight Director, address to flight control team on the Monday morning following the Apollo 1 fire. Since known as the Kranz Dictum. 30 January 1967.
In less than 70 hours, three astronauts will be launched on the flight of Apollo 8 from the Cape Kennedy Space Center on a research journey to circle the moon. This will involve known risks of great magnitude and probable risks which have not been foreseen. Apollo 8 has 5,600,000 parts and 1.5 million systems, subsystems and assemblies. With 99.9 percent reliability, we could expect 5,600 defects. Hence the striving for perfection and the use of redundancy which characterize the Apollo program.
— Jerome Lederer, Director of Manned Space Flight Safety, NASA. First paragraph of Risk speculations of the Apollo Project, a paper presented at the Wings Club, New York, New York, 18 December 1968.
The United States this week will commit its national pride, eight years of work and $24 billion of its fortune to showing the world it can still fulfill a dream. It will send three young men on a human adventure of mythological proportions with the whole of the civilized world invited to watch&mdashfor better or worse.
— Rudy Abramson, Los Angeles Times, 13 July 1969.
Columbus did not know where he was going, how far it was, nor where he had been after his return. With Apollo, there is no such lack of information. Nevertheless, the flight will involve risks of great magnitude and probably risks that have not been foreseen.
— Jerome Lederer, Director of Manned Flight Safety NASA, stating that the Apollo 8 astronauts will be “in a far less hazardous position” heading for the moon than had they been crewmembers for Columbus, the New York Times, 19 December 1968.
What the hell was that?
— Richard Gordon, Command Module Pilot Apollo 12, first words after the Saturn V launch triggered a lightning discharge that knocked out all three fuel cells and much of the CSM instrumentation. Mission Elapsed Time 00:00:37, 14 November 1969.
Apollo 12, Houston. Try SCE to auxiliary. Over.
— John Aaron, NASA Mission Control EECOM (Electrical, Enviomental and Consumables Manager), showing the very essence of 'a steely eyed missile man' instructing the Apollo crew of the obscure but correct actions to recover from the system failures. It was not immediately recognized by the Flight Director, CAPCOM or Commander Pete Conrad, but was recognized by Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean who performed the actions to bring fuel pumps and telemetry back online following the lightning events. The mission continued to the Moon. Mission Elapsed Time 00:01:36, 14 November 1969.
The Moon is essentially gray — no color — looks like plaster of Paris — soft of gray sand.
— James Lovell, Apollo 8, first transmission from first lunar orbit, 24 December 1968.
Looks like a sand pile my kids have been playing in for a long time — it's all beat up — no definition — just a lot of bumps and holes.
— William Anders, Apollo 8, first lunar orbit, 24 December 1968
I think Isaac Newton is doing most of the driving now.
— Bills Anders, Apollo 8 Commander, when told that a ground controller's son had asked who was driving the capsule on the return from the Moon to the Earth, 26 December 1968
Is the Moon made out of green cheese?
— Bill Anders, Apollo 8, after splashdown, while the first humans to travel to the Moon waited to be picked up out of the ocean, someone called from the ship or the helicopter asking is the Moon made of green cheese, 27 December 1968.
As you pass from sunlight into darkness and back again every hour and a half, you become startlingly aware how artificial are thousands of boundaries we've created to separate and define. And for the first time in your life you feel in your gut the precious unity of the Earth and all the living things it supports.
— Russell 'Rusty' Schweickart, returning from Apollo 9
I'm proud to be an American, I'll tell you. What a program and what a place and what an experience.
— Charlie Duke, Apollo 16 Lunar Module Pilot, saluting the U.S. flag on the surface of the Moon, 21 April 1972
You could see the flames and the outer skin of the spacecraft glowing; and burning, baseball-size chunks flying off behind us. It was an eerie feeling, like being a gnat inside a blowtorch flame.
— Bill Anders, Apollo 8 re-entry, quoted in 'Lunar Reflections,' Omni magazine, July 1989.
This is the greatest week in the history of the world since the Creation.
— President Richard M. Nixon, to Apollo XI crew aboard USS Hornet, 24 July 1969.
This has been far more than three men on a mission to the Moon; more still than the efforts of a government and industry team; more, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.
— Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr), in a broadcast from Apollo XI.
It's a strange, eerie sensation to fly a lunar landing trajectory&mdashnot difficult, but somewhat complex and unforgiving.
— Neil Armstrong
HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON JULY 1969, A. D. WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND.
— Plaque left on the Moon by Apollo 11 (it was
mounted on the LM Descent Stage ladder).
It's different, but it's very pretty out here. I suppose they are going to make a big deal of all this.
— Neil Armstrong, transmitting from the Moon.
I think in the long run the money that — s been put into the space program is one of the best investments this country has ever made …This is a downpayment on the future of mankind. It's as simple as that.
— Arthur C. Clarke, CBS TV, 20 July 1969.
This is the result of six billion years of evolution. Tonight, we have given the lie to gravity.We have reached for the stars.
— Ray Bradbury, BBC TV, 20 July 1969.
Prometheus is reaching out for the stars with an empty grin on his face.
— Arthur Koestler, regards the Moon landing, the New York Times, 21 July 1969.
So there he is at last. Man on the moon. The poor magnificent bungler! He can't even get to the office without undergoing the agonies of the damned, but give him a little metal, a few chemicals, some wire and twenty or thirty billion dollars and, vroom! there he is, up on a rock a quarter of a million miles up in the sky.
— Russell Baker, the New York Times, 21 July 1969.
This is Apollo 8 coming to you live from the moon. The moon is a different thing to each of us. My own impression is that it's a vast, lonely, forbidding type existence — great expanse of nothing, that looks rather like clouds and clouds of pumice stone, and it certainly would not appear to be a very inviting place to live or work.
— Frank Borman, live Apollo 8 telecast from lunar orbit, December 24, 1968.
Well, Frank, my thoughts are very similar. The vast loneliness up here at the moon is awe-inspiring, and it makes you realize what you have back there on earth. The earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space.
— Jim Lovell, live Apollo 8 telecast from lunar orbit, 24 December 1968.
I think the thing that impressed me the most was the Lunar's sunrises and sunsets. These in particular bring out the stark nature of the terrain… . The horizon here is very, very stark, the sky is pitch black and the earth, or the moon rather, excuse me, is quite light, and the contrast between the sky and the moon is a vivid dark line.
— Bill Anders, live Apollo 8 telecast from lunar orbit, 24 December 1968.
Now approaching lunar sunrise. And for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo eight has a message that we would like to send to you. “In the Beginning god created the Heaven and the Earth. And the Earth was without form and void. And darkness was upon the face of the Deep… . And God saw that it was Good.” And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, and a Merry Christmas. And God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.
— flight crew of Apollo 8, live telecast Christmas Eve, 1968.
Neil and Buzz, I am talking to you by telephone from the Oval Office at the White House, and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made… . Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world. As you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth.
— President Richard M. Nixon.
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding. They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the
world to feel
Others will follow, and surely find their way home.
— In the event of Moon disaster, a speech drafted by William Safire for President Richard M. Nixon to give to the nation should Neil and Buzz not be able to rejoin the command module and be faced with death on, or around, the Moon, the Whitehouse memo (shown below) was sent to H. R. Haldeman and dated 18 July 1969. This text remained secret for thirty years.
We have seen a wonder. There has never been one quite like it. What first steps in human history would one have chosen to witness, if one could travel in time? The Vikings coming ashore wherever they did come ashore — Newfoundland? — in North America? Or the first little boat from Columbus's ship scraping the land under her keel? Yet all of that, or any other bit of geographical discovery, we should be seeing with hindsight. On the spot, it must have seemed much more down-to-earth. People getting out of boats must have looked (and felt) very much like people getting out of boats anywhere at anytime.
No, we have had the best of it. We have seen something unique. It is right that is should have looked like something we have never seen before. In science films, perhaps — but this was real. The figure, moving so laboriously, as though it was learning, minute by minute, to walk, was a man of our own kind. Inside that gear there was a foot, a human foot. Watch. It has come, probing its way down — near to something solid. One expects to hear (there is no air, one could hear nothing) a sound. At last, it has come down. Onto a surface. Onto the surface of the Moon.
Well, we have seen a wonder. We ought to count our blessings.
— Lord C. P. Snow, Look magazine, 1969.
Men go into space .. to see whether it is the kind of place where other men, and their families and their children, can eventually follow them. A disturbingly high proportion of the intelligent young are discontented because they find the life before them intolerably confining. The Moon offers a new frontier. It is as simple and splendid as that.
— Editorial, The Economist magazine, 1969.
Nothing is more symptomatic of the enervation, of the decompression of the Western imagination, than our incapacity to respond to the landings on the Moon. Not a single great poem, picture, metaphor has come of this breathtaking act, of Prometheus' rescue of Icarus or of Phaeton in flight towards the stars.
— George Steiner, lecture at the Salzburg Festival, 5 August 1994.
Frequently on the lunar surface I said to myself, “This is the Moon, that is the Earth. I'm really here, I'm really here!
— Alan Bean
It's like trying to describe what you feel when you’re standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon or remembering your first love or the birth of your child. You have to be there to really know what it's like.
— Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt, regards landing on the Moon.
Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth … home.
— Edgar Mitchell
The view of the Moon that we've been having recently is really spectacular. It fills about three-quarters of the hatch window, and of course we can see the entire circumference even though part of it is in complete shadow and part of it is in earthshine. It's a view worth the price of the trip.
— Neil Armstrong
This blowing dust became increasingly thicker. It was very much like landing in a fast-moving ground fog.
— Neil Armstrong
I don't believe any pair of people had been more removed physically from the rest of the world than we were.
— Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr)
Program Alarm, it's a 1202.
— Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr), during final descent to the Moon.
Roger, we're go on that alarm
— Charlie Duke, Houston CapCom. The computer overflowed several more times during the first lunar descent. The historic decision to continue was communicated by young engineer Steve Bales with the classic line, “Go flight.” His judgment and decisiveness was awarded with a Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony.
Armstrong, sitting in the commander's seat, spacesuit on, helmet on, plugged into electrical and environmental umbilical's, is the man who is not only a machine himself in the links of these networks, but is also a man sitting in (what Collins is later to call) a 'mini-cathedral.' a man somewhat more than a pilot, somewhat more than a superpilot, is in fact a veritable high priest of the forces of society and scientific history concentrated in that mini-cathedral, a general of the church of the forces of technology.
— Norman Mailer, Of a Fire on the Moon, 1970.
It's like being inside a gigantic lightbulb.
— Michael Collins, regards the flaming blaze of Apollo 11 reentry. Interview for the 2007 movie In the Shadow of the Moon.
The flight was extremely normal … for the first 36 seconds then after that got very interesting.
— Pete Conrad, Apollo 12 commander, regards the launch during which two electrical discharges almost ended the mission.
— John 'Jack' Swigert, Jr., Apollo 13 command module pilot. In popular culture the phrase has become “Houston, we have a problem,” but the actual radio transmission used the past tense. Mission Elapsed Time 55:55:20, 9:07 PM Central Time, 13 April 1970. Listen to the whole actual radio transmission (MP3)
An unknown fault in electrical equipment inside one of the Service Module's oxygen tanks had produced an explosion during the routine stirring operation, which in turn caused the loss the oxygen in both tanks. The Apollo 13 crew were forced to shut down the Command Module to conserve its batteries and save its oxygen for use in re-entry, and use the Lunar Module's limited resources as a 'lifeboat' during a 'slingshot' around the moon and back to Earth. Despite the depravations and challanges of limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to somehow re-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, Apollo 13 returned safely to Earth on 17 April 1970.
This is Houston, say again please.
— Jack Lousma, Houston CapCom in reply to Swigert.
Err Houston, we've had a problem. [pause] We've had a main B bus undervolt.
— Jim Lovell, in reply to Lousma.
It looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting something. We are venting something into the — into the space.
— Jim Lovell, describing the Apollo 13 situation to Houston, 13 April 1970.
After the Apollo 13 recovery, Grumman Aerospace Corporation (designers and builders of the lunar module) sent a spoof invoice A441066 to North American Rockwell (designers and builders of the command and service modules) for towing the rest of Apollo 13 around the moon and home to Earth. The bill was written by people at Grumman's Flight Control Integration Lab in 1970. It included towing at $4.00 first mile, $1.00 each additional mile, battery charge, oxygen and addition guest at $8.00/night. Water and baggage handling was free. A 20% commercial discount and 2% cash discount (net 30 days) resulting in a total of $312,421.24. Rockwell responded in a press conference that they still had not received payment for shipping four of Grumman's LMs to the Moon.
The world is being Americanized and technologized to its limits, and that makes it dull for some people. Reaching the Moon restores the frontier and gives us the lands beyond.
— Isaac Asimov, regards Apollo.
Houston, Apollo 11 … I've got the world in my window.
— Michael Collins
I really didn't appreciate the first planet [earth] until I saw the second one… . I cannot recall [the Moon's] tortured surface without thinking of the infinite variety the delightful planet earth offers.
— Michael Collins
We have taken to the Moon the wealth of this nation,
— Michael Collins
In my own view, the important achievement of Apollo was a demonstration that humanity is not forever chained to this planet, and our visions go rather further than that, and our opportunities are unlimited.
— Neil Armstrong, July 1999.
We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the earth.
— William Anders, Apollo 8.
As we got further and further away, it [the Earth] diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man.
— James B. Irwin, Apollo 15.
We went to the Moon as technicians; we returned as humanitarians.
— Edgar Mitchell
For me, the most ironic token of that moment in history is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the Moon. It reads: 'We came in peace for all mankind.' As the United States was dropping 7.5 megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity: We would harm no one on a lifeless rock.
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1994.
It means nothing to me. I have no opinion about it, and I don't care.
— Pablo Picasso, reacting to the first Moon-landing, quoted in the New York Times, 21 July 1969.
Oh, 'impressed' is not the right word! Treading the soil of the moon gives one, I imagine (or rather my projected self imagines), the most remarkable romantic thrill ever experienced in the history of discovery. Of course, I rented a television set to watch every moment of their marvelous adventure. That gentle little minuet that despite their awkward suits the two men danced with such grace to the tune of lunar gravity was a lovely sight. It was also a moment when a flag means to one more than a flag usually does. I am puzzled and pained by the fact that the English weeklies ignored the absolutely overwhelming excitement of the adventure, the strange sensual exhilaration of palpating those precious pebbles, of seeing our marbled globe in the black sky, of feeling along one's spine the shiver and wonder of it. After all, Englishmen should understand that thrill, they who have been the greatest, the purest explorers. Why then drag in such irrelevant matters as wasted dollars and power politics?
— Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions, 1973.
When old dreams die, new ones come to take their place. God pity a one-dream man.
— Esther Goddard, reading from her late husband's diary to the AP just prior to the launch of Apollo 11.
The Lunar landing of the astronauts is more than a step in history; it is a step in evolution.
&mdashNew York Times editorial, 20 July 1969.
If we want to go to space with humans, that’s for fun not for science. Human adventures in space are just sporting events.
— Freeman Dyson, Raw Science interview, 26 November 2014.
When I look at the moon I do not see a hostile, empty world. I see the radiant body where man has taken his first steps into a frontier that will never end.
— David R. Scott, Apollo 15 commander, 'What Is It Like to Walk on the Moon,' National Geographic magazine, September 1973.
It's too bad, but the way American people are, now that they have all this capability, instead of taking advantage of it, they'll probably just piss it all away.
— President Lyndon B. Johnson, overheard during a visit to the Apollo 7 crew in training, 1968. Quoted in D. M. Harland, Exploring The Moon: The Apollo Expeditions, 2nd ed. 2008.
Another hundred years may pass before we understand the true significance of Apollo. Lunar exploration was not the equivalent of an American pyramid, some idle monument to technology, but more of a Rosetta stone, a key to unlocking dreams as yet undreamed.
— Gene Cernan, The Last Man on the Moon, 2000.
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