When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon in 1969, everyone heard him say,
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
But that doesn’t really make much sense, does it? “Man” and “mankind” mean the same thing in this context, so he’s saying that mankind took a small step and a giant leap at the same time.
That’s not very profound, is it? It would have been much better if he’d thrown the indefinite article “a” in there right before “man” to contrast the easy step of a single human with a vast leap forward for all humankind. Like this:
“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Well, for three and a half decades now, that’s what Neil Armstrong has been claiming he did say. So now some accounts of the event have the “a”, and some of them don’t. A few of them try to hedge:
“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Lately, even Armstrong himself is beginning to believe he didn’t say it.
An Australian computer programmer says he found the missing “a” from Armstrong’s famous first words from the moon in 1969, when the world heard the phrase, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Ford said he downloaded the audio recording of Armstrong’s words from a NASA Web site and analyzed the statement with software that allows disabled people to communicate through computers using their nerve impulses.
In a graphical representation of the famous phrase, Ford said he found evidence that the missing “a” was spoken and transmitted to NASA.
“I have reviewed the data and Peter Ford’s analysis of it, and I find the technology interesting and useful,” Armstrong said in a statement. “I also find his conclusion persuasive. Persuasive is the appropriate word.”