ONE SMALL STEP.
ARGUABLY THE MOST MEMORABLE WORDS OF THE 20TH CENTURYINSCRIBED BY THE MAN WHO SPOKE THEM.
Apollo 11 Flight Plan, pp 3-79/3-80, a single sheet printed recto and verso. NASA/MSC, July 1, 1969. 10½ by 8 inches. Framed with a crew patch.
SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY THE FIRST MAN ON THE MOON: "'One small step for a manone giant leap for mankind.' Neil Armstrong, Commander, Apollo 11." Inscribed by Armstrong for NASA press officer John McLeaish just days after splashdown.
This sheet is from the detailed timeline section of the flight plan, covering the preparations for man's first step on another celestial body, and the moment that step was taken: "Prep for cabin depress ... Don gloves ... Depress cabin ... Initial EVA. Egress to platform ... Descend ladder. Rest/check EMU [the spacesuit and backpack combination.] Environmental familiarization ..."
At 10:56pm Eastern Time on July 20, 1969, Armstrong was standing on the footpad of the LM. Holding the ladder with his right hand, he lifted his left foot and stepped onto the surface of the moon, uttering the words that were broadcast to 450 million people.
On their return to Earth, the Apollo 11 crew were put into a Mobile Quarantine Facility on USS Hornet, then moved to the Lunar Receiving Laboratory (LRL) at the Johnson Space Center. Waiting in quarantine in the LRL was John McLeaish [1929-2006], Chief of the NASA's Public Information Office, together with two doctors and some technicians. They and the crew remained in quarantine for almost three weeks. During this time McLeaish gave briefings to the press through a window.
Discussing the famous "... step for (a) man" ambiguity in an interview in 2001, McLeaish said: "I talked to [Armstrong] about it in quarantine. I asked him what he said. He said, "Well, I know what I meant to say." He said, "I meant to say, 'That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,'" and that's kind of the way we played it." (Bizarrely, the transcript of the interview in fact drops the "a" and replaces "That's" with "It's"surely a mistranscription, and therefore corrected here. Interview conducted by Rebecca Wright, San Antonio, TX, November 15, 2001, as part of JSC's Oral History Project.)
During quarantine, and perhaps during that very conversation, Armstrong inscribed the present sheet for McLeaish. McLeaish has written on the verso: "This certifies that Neil Armstrong presented this signed page to me on August 9, 1969, while in quarantine following his mission as the first man on the moon. John E. McLeaish signed." Additionally accompanied by a letter from Patsy McLeaish, John's wife, confirming that the present sheet was inscribed by Armstrong while in quarantine and that her late husband "proudly displayed this special gift." During McLeaish's long career, the sheet thus became lightly toned from exposure to sunlight.
Armstrong told his biographer James Hansen that he never wrote this phrase for anyone, but in the frenetic days following his return to Earth, the present inscription clearly slipped his mind. We are aware of no other example having come to auction.