It was 45 years ago, yesterday, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins took on what is without a doubt one of the most important endeavors in the history of humankind. Packed together into one of the most incredible pieces of engineering to ever exist, the astronauts of Apollo 11 left Earth’s atmosphere, with hopes of being the first humans to ever step foot on the Moon.
To commemorate the accomplishment many thought was impossible – and to those who still do – we have put together a chronological collection of photos documenting the entire journey. Shared by NASA as part of their Project Apollo Archive, these images are just a few from the vast archive of medium format, 35mm, and 16mm frames captured throughout the Apollo missions.
Upon taking a “small step” onto the surface of the moon in 1969, Neil Armstrong uttered what would become one of history’s most famous one-liners. But strangely, what he actually said is far from clear.
Listeners back on Earth heard, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” But Armstrong , who died at the age of 82 on Saturday (Aug. 25), maintained afterwards that he actually said something slightly different: “That’s one small step for a man…”
“It’s just that people just didn’t hear [the ‘a’],” Neil Armstrong told the press after the Apollo 11 mission.
That little indefinite article makes a big difference, semantically speaking. Without it, “man” abstractly represents all of humanity, just like “mankind.” Thus, the quote is essentially, ”That’s one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind.” [Listen to ‘One Small Step’ Quote]
Despite his initial sureness that he got the grammar right by including the indefinite article, Armstrong acknowledged at a 30-year anniversary event in 1999 that he couldn’t hear himself utter the “a” in the audio recording of his moonwalk transmission, according to the Associated Press.
But then, in 2006, computer programmer Peter Shann Ford might havevindicated Armstrong.
Ford downloaded the audio recording of the moon man’s words from a NASA website and analyzed the statement with software that allows disabled people to communicate via computers using their nerve impulses.
In a graphical representation of sound waves of the famous sentence, Ford said he found evidence that the missing “a” had been spoken after all: It was a 35-millisecond-long bump of sound between “for” and “man” that would have been too brief for human ears to hear.
“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.”
And so was “a,” whether spoken or not.