“That’s one small step for man,
one giant leap for mankind.”
Neil Armstrong was the first man to step on to the moon, but was he the first man to speak those words?
Many will recall listening to those immortal words uttered by Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on to the moon in the Apollo 11 mission on July 20th., 1969.
Much argument and discussion has taken place since as to whether he left out an ‘a’
and the line should have been, “ One small step for a man.....”
However, most people have always considered that Neil Armstrong thought of those lines himself during the 6 hours which elapsed from his landing on the moon and his stepping down the ladder on to the moon’s surface. He says in his biography, by Professor J. R. Hansen, “First man. The life of Neil Armstrong,” that he spent no time in thinking what to say until after the moon landing. (page 493)
But there is some question as to who the author of that famous line really was.......
In the year 2000 I came in contact on the internet with Gareth Peach.
Gary had been employed at the Tinbidbilla Tracking Station, on the Deep Space Instrumentation Facility 42, ACT, Australia, as a Space Tracking Technician for the Apollo mission, in 1969. He was employed there from 1964 until 1973.
( How he came to be employed there . Click here.)
This is what he told me about the night before the Apollo launch.
"On the Evening before the Launch of Apollo I was doing some final tests and checks on the equipment; most had gone home, it was still GET (Ground Elapsed Time) minus several hours. Once the Saturn 5 was launched nobody would get any rest until the Astronauts were safely back on Earth.
In the half lit quiet of the Deep Space Control Room I was surprised by another person approaching from behind.
It was Mr Monckton, Director of the Network Support Facility taking a last look around before the off.
He stopped and we had a conversation.
Was I happy with everything; were there any problems?
No technical problems, I replied, but I am concerned about the historic moment when the first man sets foot upon the Moon. In the excitement, knowing the Yanks as I do, it’ll probably be something like “Holy chicken shit look at all that f***ing dust.” (Remember the All Balls comment?)
I felt that would not be a suitable thing to be quoted in history books until eternity.
He asked, “Well what would you say?”
I thought for a moment, having the sense of occasion so rare in history, and easily replied,
“It is one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind. “
Mr Monkton left hurriedly and the rest is history."
During the last 5 years I have got to know Gary’s
personality quite well. Other than his great
knowledge, the one thing that shines out in his
character is his great love for the truth.
One might even say that he has a passion for it.
When we have discussed the above incident his version of that event has never wavered or changed in its detail.
Gary recently told me more about that meeting at night with the Director, Mr. Monkton.
This again, is what he told me......
Monckton’s words to me were “We hadn’t thought of that” when I suggested that I was concerned about what the first words would be, he then asked me what I would suggest.
It was obvious by facial expression that he realised that we were within hours of launch and there would be no time to assemble a panel expert in History and English to think up a suitable phrase.
What he did with my suggestion after he left the ops room I have no idea, but he did leave immediately and at a greater pace than he had entered the room. He had entered by the East Door and left via the connecting corridor between the DSN and MSN operations rooms.
To prove that Gary is the true author of that most famous line is near impossible after all these years as there were no independent witnesses present when Gary spoke to the Director, Mr. Monkton. Another technician friend of Gary’s, Keith Aldworth, also employed there for the mission, does swear that Gary mentioned to him the conversation he had with Mr. Monkton, but this was after the words were spoken by Neil Armstrong. Keith also confirms Gary’s great passion for the truth, by the way.
As can be imagined everyone was very busy at this hectic time carrying out their duties, to ensure a successful moon landing and the subsequent astronauts’ safe return to Earth.
There are more documents to show that Gary did indeed work at Tidbinbilla for the moon landing. So, is his version of that important conversation he had with Mr. Monkton correct? As I said, Gary has a great love for the truth and I do now believe that what he claims is correct. It certainly sounds very plausible.
One might argue that maybe both Gary and Neil Armstrong thought of near identical lines independently of each other? A kind of, “ Great minds think alike !” But
Mr. Monkton did say to Gary as he hastily departed, that they hadn’t thought of that, referring to the line that Gary had suggested. So maybe Mr Monkton went off in a hurry in order to pass it on to ground control?
This fits in very well with Professor Hansen’s alternative theory that the words were passed to Neil Armstrong by a high NASA official (page 495 of the biography),
but Neil Armstrong has no recollection of this ever happening.
Neil Armstrong was interviewed for NASA Oral History Project in 2001. Extract here.
You might ask, why Gary has never spoken about this before? I, too, was puzzled about this, but he was bringing up a young family in Australia at the time. He has also suffered from bad heart trouble and illness since then. More importantly, he greatly admired all the astronauts involved in that epic journey and especially Neil Armstrong.
For these reasons he hasn’t raised any query about this matter. I have now persuaded him that history should know the truth about all this if possible and so he has agreed to his version of what happened being told.
Sadly, many of the personnel engaged in the team who helped put man on the moon in 1969 may have passed on. If Gary’s version of what happened on that night before launch is correct, then others must have been involved in passing these words on to Neil Armstrong. As complete detailed records were kept about everything, there may be references somewhere.
Where are they now? Do you know any one who was involved?
Many reading this article might consider it to be yet another of the many conspiracy theories we see today, and that is very understandable. But having known Gary for some years now, I have decided that his story is not one of them.
Gary and I salute the pioneering bravery of Neil Armstrong and his crew, but with the 40th anniversary of that great feat now past we feel that it is time for a reappraisal of the history of those words.
If you know of any facts which will help the truth to be known, please contact me and I will add your information to this article. Gary Peach should be given his rightful place in the history of the most famous of all words if a reappraisal were to find in his favour.