Skip to main content

Neil Armstrong's 'small step for man' might be a misquote, study says

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Armstrong was heard around the world calling the first moon walk a "small step for man"
  • He contended he had said "a man"
  • Numerous studies have been carried out
  • A new study of speech patterns near his hometown found he may have said "for a"

(CNN) -- When astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered what became one of the best-known -- and most debated -- quotes in all of history, he actually might have said it exactly the way he meant to, not the way people heard it.

After Armstrong lowered his left foot from the landing craft to the surface of the moon, people watching around the world heard him call it "one small step for man."

Both he and NASA initially insisted that he said "one small step for a man," and now a new and novel study on the much-analyzed quote backs him up.

Researchers from Michigan State University and Ohio State University have "bolstered Neil Armstrong's side of the story," said Laura Dilley, an MSU assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders.

 Astronaut Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission, with his family on August 26, 1963. Astronaut Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 Lunar Landing Mission, with his family on August 26, 1963.
Armstrong: First man on the moon
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Armstrong: First man on the moon Armstrong: First man on the moon
2012: Neil Armstrong remembered
2009: Hear from astronaut Neil Armstrong

After becoming the first person to step on the moon in 1969, Armstrong said what was heard as: "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind."

You can hear the audio here.

Later, as NASA explains, Armstrong said he had intended to say "a man," and thought he had. But he agreed that "a" did not seem audible in the recording.

Numerous intense studies have been carried out over the years, using high-tech equipment, all in the effort to discover whether he had indeed uttered that one little sound.

In 2006, Peter Shann Ford said he had found the "a" in a study of the audio waveform, NASA explains. Then, "more rigorous analyses of the transmission were undertaken by people with professional experience with audio waveforms and, most importantly, audio spectrograms. None of these analyses support Ford's conclusion."

First man on the moon gave rare interview

Until now, perhaps.

The MSU and OSU researchers took what they call a novel approach: studying how people from Armstrong's native central Ohio pronounce "for" and "for a."

The team studied recordings of 40 people in Columbus, near Armstrong's native town of Wapakoneta. They found numerous examples of "for" and "for a" sounding similar.

Their results suggest that 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," Michigan State University said in a news release.

"We feel we've partially vindicated him," Dilley said. "But we'll most likely never know for sure exactly what he said."

Recalling Armstrong's "life well-lived"

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
updated 4:19 PM EST, Sat November 15, 2014
It's hard to top the tricky, first-ever landing on a comet but we'll try. Here are 11 other space missions to know about.
updated 5:27 PM EST, Wed November 12, 2014
November 2014 may well be remembered as the time when humanity first landed a robotic probe on the nucleus of a comet.
updated 6:21 PM EST, Fri November 7, 2014
Add another entry to the growing list of crazy footage captured by GoPro cameras.
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Sat November 1, 2014
It is in our DNA to explore the unknown. But pushing boundaries and exploring space is far from easy.
updated 11:42 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
If there's one thing we've learned about the CNN iReport community, it's that you all love to capture celestial events.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
It was the closest comet near-miss known to astronomers, but everything is alright.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
It wasn't a trick. But for space geeks, it sure was a treat.
updated 8:25 PM EDT, Sun October 12, 2014
Want to ride an elevator into space? A breakthrough in nanotechnology could mean we will be riding into space on a cable made of diamonds.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
Astronauts lie motionless in a row of compartments with medical monitoring cables connected to their bodies, as their space ship cuts through the silent blackness.
updated 3:29 PM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
This image from the Hubble Space Telescope indicates that a huge ring of dark matter likely exists surrounding the center of CL0024+17 that has no normal matter counterpart.
Scientists are closer to seeing a vast, invisible universe as a spectrometer in Earth orbit picks up possible clues of dark matter.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Soviets sent stray dogs up to conquer space. This is what happened next
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot
Life aboard the International Space Station.
updated 9:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
updated 11:56 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sun June 29, 2014
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
ADVERTISEMENT