Of course we all know the legendary words that WERE spoken by Neil Armstrong when he first walked on the moon (notwithstanding some minor historical debate about “step for man” versus “step for A man”... there was radio interference... don’t ask!) But there’s an awesome story about the words he apparently muttered under his breath as he LEFT the Lunar Surface.
They were widely rumoured to be “Good luck Mr Gorsky.”
Some people heard, but nobody understood - and it was reported back home that many spent a good deal of time wondering if Gorsky was a rival Cosmonaut involved in the Russian space program. But Armstrong remained tight lipped until years later during an interview, when he revealed that Mr and Mrs Gorsky had lived next door to him while he was growing up in Ohio. The young Armstrong had jumped into their yard one afternoon to retrieve a lost baseball and through an open window had clearly heard the words “Oral Sex? Oral Sex! You’ll get oral sex when that kid next door walks on the moon.”
The story is hilarious but sadly not true. It was part of a joke told by a Californian comedian and Armstrong himself debunked it in the 1990s, but you can check for yourself, the official transcript of everything they said during the mission was published by NASA and is still online. His final words on the moon were actually: “It won't go up. (Pause) Okay.” He was referring to the American flag they planted there.
If "Good luck Mr Gorsky" makes you feel warm and nostalgic though, you should know they weren't the only famous words never spoken during the moon landing. There’s a much colder, darker example that reads a little like a science fiction film.
US President Richard Nixon had an alternative speech penned in case Armstrong and Aldrin never made it off the surface of the moon. It was part of a wider contingency plan called ‘In Event of Moon Disaster’ and began: "Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace. These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.”
In the wake of his death a few days ago Armstrong’s family sent a message to those who wanted to honor him: “the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.” It’s almost fitting that – had Nixon ever had to give that tragic speech - he would have ended it with pretty much the same sentiment: “For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."
But thankfully the speech remained unspoken and was left to gather dust and Armstrong died peacefully having gained his proper place in history.
I used to read about him in my 'big book of space' as no doubt did countless other children from many countries over several generations. In stark contrast to the celebrities we know today he seems like someone we should pay quiet and gentle tribute to - despite the mighty and towering nature of his achievements.As NBC’s Brian Williams pointed out this week: “There was never a Neil Armstrong action figure or a chain of restaurants bearing his name. He did it for the team and he walked away.”
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