NASA JOHNSON SPACE CENTER ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
ORAL HISTORY TRANSCRIPT
NEIL A. ARMSTRONG
INTERVIEWED BY DR. STEPHEN E. AMBROSE AND DR. DOUGLAS BRINKLEY
HOUSTON, TEXAS - 19 SEPTEMBER 2001
BRINKLEY: Probably the question you must get tired of the most is the most famous words of the
twentieth century, and that is "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," and whether
you've answered this question so many times before, but do you find it curious that NASA didn't
script a line for you to say, that they allowed you the kind of personal freedom to-you know, I
almost-if I had put myself in NASA's position, I would almost want to say, "Neil, here's the line
we'd like you to say," and yet they gave you that freedom.
ARMSTRONG: Well, in retrospect, they might have wished that. [Laughter] But the late Julian
Scheer, who really led the NASA relations with the outside world in many ways, was absolutely
adamant that Headquarters never put words in the mouths of their people, not just astronauts, but
anybody, that they let people speak for themselves. They made it known sort of what the party line
was and what the NASA position was, but beyond that, they never, to my knowledge, controlled the
… public statements of others. Certainly they insisted, in the case of the flight crews, that they not
be told what to say, that their statements be their own elocution of what they saw and what they
wanted to say. As far as I know, that prohibition was never violated.
BRINKLEY: And with you actually crafting that line, that was just something you were thinking
about as the moment approached when you knew this was going to happen, did you think about in
your head? Or did you think maybe, "I should just say 'Man is now on the Moon,'" or did you
realize-I think that's a magnificent line. I think most people do. Everybody, I really think, does.
How did that come about? Were you-had some time while you were getting prepared for the-
you know, to leave the Eagle that you knew that that would be the proper line, the line you wanted
ARMSTRONG: Yes, I thought about it after landing, and because we had a lot of other things to do, it
was not something that I really concentrated on but just something that was kind of passing around
subliminally or in the background. But it, you know, was a pretty simple statement, talking about
stepping off something. Why, it wasn't a very complex thing. It was what it was.
BRINKLEY: When you crafted the line when you were coming down, were you-I mean, how much
of a concern is that? I mean, you had a lot of things running-also you're hoping just to get that
footprint put on the Moon.
ARMSTRONG: I didn't think of it as being as important as others. I didn't want to be dumb, but it
was contrived in a way, and I was guilty of that.
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