Thursday, 23 July 2009

News that a British scientist working, at the time, at Tidbinbilla in Australia, came up with the iconic line used by Neil Armstrong on stepping onto the moon in August 1969 appeared here first on the website of Melbourne’s Age newspaper, dated 5.44pm.

The story is by-lined AAP.

By 6.13pm the story had migrated to the website of Brisbane‘s The Courier-Mail, which neglected to by-line AAP making it look as thought they had generated the story themselves. This is more than slightly dodgy at first blush, although they may have an agreement with AAP to handle their stories in this way.

But the story itself is dynamite. Naturally a NASA spokesperson callowly denies there is any truth in it.

The scientist is named Gary Peach and he’s now retired in rural seclusion in England. According to Peach, he was asked by a Mr Monkton, who Peach describes as his boss on the Apollo project, to recommend something for the first astronaut who touched moondust to utter on the occasion.

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” replied Peach.

The words emerged almost unchanged from Armstrong’s lips when he planted his booted foot on the lunar surface.

A much longer story appears on the Times Online website, written by Simone Bruxelles. This is the original story. Calling Armstrong’s error “tautological” because ‘man’ and ‘mankind’ are synonyms, Bruxelles shows that Peach was right when he expressed concern about entrusting such important words to an ex-fighter pilot.

Armstrong fluffed the line.

Asked about the words for an oral history project, Armstrong demonstrated his fundamental inability to place together meaningfully more than three words at a time.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

He didn’t want to be dumb…

Peach says he gave the words to Monkton when the latter entered his lab one day asking if everything was OK.

“I replied no technical problems, 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 s**t look at all that f***ing dust’.

“I said I felt that would not be a suitable thing to be quoted in history books until eternity.

“He asked: ‘Well what would you say?’” Mr Peach, who had been mulling it over for several days, replied: “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”.

He says Mr Monkton said “we didn’t think of that” and left the room in a hurry.

Peach’s version sounds a lot more convincing than Armstrong’s, don’t you agree?


Gary Peach said...

Fine thanks for the support, however the bit about copyright isn't strictly true as each news concern had asked independently for an interview, in which I hope that I have been consistent and plausible.
Gary Peach

Dean said...

The Courier-Mail story (Brisbane) was identical to the story run in Melbourne's Age. The Age by-lined the story, the Courier-Mail did not. It was the same story, as far as I could see.

Good luck with your efforts.

Keith Aldworth said...

I was present at Tidbinbilla at the time and I saw Gary talking with Mr. Monkton. I did not hear the conversation but I can confirm that Mr. Monkton made a purposeful exit when it concluded. Gary confided to me AFTER Niel Armstrong uttered those famous words, that they were the words that Gary had suggested to Mr. Monkton.

Dean said...

Yes, I believe Gary Peach totally. Your affirmation just makes it all more believable. The alternative viewpoint is far less compelling. Thanks for your input.