I really enjoy learning about “real” history versus what has been popularly pasteurized. As a (laid-off) 3rd generation aerospace worker I’m of course aware of the accusations of a faked moon landing. While I believe we actually did land, I’ve heard that contrary to “One small step...”, the actual first words of Neil Armstrong were more to the tune of “It’s soft, my foot sank in...”. Care to launch into this?
— Mike Loflen, Clairemont
Yeah, everybody probably has a story like my friend’s. Her grandfather was watching the landing, making disgusted noises, then declared it all a Hollywood trick. He motioned his family members out onto the patio and pointed to the perfectly clear full moon and said, “Okay, where is he?”
NASA has revealed every microsecond of the moon landing, with exhaustively annotated transcripts of communications between the lunar module and Houston. Annotations were done long after the mission. You can relive it and understand all the codes and shorthand everybody uses, where the lander was at any particular time, any other detail you could possibly want to know — personally, technically, historically. Broadcast engineers and transmitter or antenna wonks might love it. One detail you could possibly want to know is where Armstrong’s feet are as he descends the ladder to the moon’s surface. NASA tells all. Their annotations are in italics in brackets.
At 109:23:28 minutes into the mission, Armstrong is out of the module, on the ladder to the moon’s surface. He says, “I’m at the foot of the ladder. The LM footpads are only depressed in the surface about 1 or 2 inches, although the surface appears to be very, very fine grained, as you get close to it. It’s almost like a powder. [The] ground mass is very fine. [Pause]”
At 109:24:12, NASA records, “Armstrong: Okay. I’m going to step off the LM now. [Long Pause]” NASA follows with an annotation gleaned from films of the landing. “[Neil has his right hand on the ladder, and will step down with his left foot, leaving his right foot on the footpad....}”
At 109:24:23, “Armstrong: That’s one small step for [a] man; one giant leap for mankind. [Long Pause]”
The NASA annotation that follows is a long discussion of what Armstrong said versus what he meant (“man” vs. “a man”). Then they record, “[Neil moves his right hand lower on the ladder and steps down with his right foot.] 109:24:48, Armstrong: Yes, the surface is fine and powdery. I can kick it up loosely with my toe....”
Armstrong’s first words after exiting the LM actually had to do with camera positions and picture quality and transmission clarity. Then he descends to the bottom of the ladder and comments on the surface. Then he sets one foot off the ladder and makes his memorable statement. Then, once both feet are on the moon, he kicks the powder with his toe. You’ll have to decide for yourself what his “first words” were, depending on whether one foot is okay or you demand two on the moon. Heaven knows, NASA has done everything it could to help you. Find it at hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/a11step.html. This is the “One Small Step” section of NASA’s “Apollo 11 Lunar Surface Journal” transcript, a mighty e-document.
There is a phrase “presence of mind.” This, in my opinion, describes the situation to a T (and don’t ask me what that means).
— Javajoe25, Reader blogpost
Correct, Java. They should ask me. Ask me, and I’ll say it has nothing to do with T-shirts, T-squares, golf tees, T-bars, iced tea, Ice-T, T-bone steak, or T-Bone Burnett. And I have to say, I admire the wordnerds and their sherpas, having climbed this particular etymological mountain. I’ve shortened the trip for you. “To a T” goes back in print to the 1600s. But a century before, there was an an English expression “to a tittle.” Both meant “precisely.” After much deliberation, Wordland declares the origin of “to a T” to be a shortened form of “to a tittle,” “tittle” in the 1500s being a tiny detail. You find it in the saying, “Every jot and tittle,” a little antiquated but still used, still meaning “precise in every tiny detail.” It might refer to the dot over the lower-case letter “i” and the crossbar on the “t” in handwriting. So, a forgettable answer to a probably-not-worth-asking question. But of course I couldn’t resist.