"One Small Step for Man" or "a Man"?

Posted on Wed, July 17, 2019
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On July 16, 2019, we put Neil Armstrong's spacesuit back on display after 13 years. It is displayed in a special case that will help us preserve it while on display. The conditions inside the sealed glass case replicate the Museum’s ideal storage conditions as closely as possible, with the light will be at a low level to avoid the cumulative damage that prolonged light exposure can have on textiles, and a climate system will maintain the cool, dry, environment that is essential to preserving our spacesuit collection. 

The case also features Neil Armstrong's famous quote: the words he spoke when he became the first person to set foot on the Moon: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." 

Since unveiling the exhibiton and sharing photos online, we have gotten a number of questions about the quote in the case, specifically about whether an "a" belongs in front of the word "man." We talked to spacesuit curator Cathleen Lewis about why the quote is presented the way it is: 

"After decades of audio analysis and the conclusion of historian James R. Hansen, the museum accepts that Armstrong said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,"" Lewis explained. " No matter what his intention had been, he omitted the “a” between for and man. Since there was no written script, we only had the option to quote the words as spoken." 

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