Straight to the Moon, Neil: The 36th Anniversary of the Lunar Landing
On July 20, 1969, two American men landed on the moon. Today is the 36th anniversary of that landing (at least, if you believe it happened...see below). My favourite piece of random trivia about the lunar landing? The first word spoken on the moon was not, in fact, "One..." as in "One small step for man..." but rather, that lovely all purpose English word used to express everything from disbelief to uncertainty to preparation to agreement and back again: the first thing Neil Armstrong actually said on the Moon?
Armstrong and Aldrin spent only a few hours on the moon setting up some simple experiments. They left their footprints, a United States flag, and a plaque that reads: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot on the Moon—July 1969 A.D.—We came in peace for all mankind."
Only 12 people have walked on the moon, the last two in December 1972. In 2004 U.S. President George W. Bush committed the country to a return to the moon, starting with a robotic mission by 2008 and a human mission as early as 2015 (see pictures of the next-generation craft for carrying humans to the moon). The plan is to eventually use the moon as a stage in missions to Mars and beyond.
Folklorist Linda Degh pointed out that the film Capricorn One may have given a "boost" to the hoax theory's popularity in the post-Vietnam War, post-Watergate era when segments of the American public were disinclined to trust official accounts. Degh writes that "The mass media catapult these half-truths into a kind of twilight zone where people can make their guesses sound as truths. Mass media have a terrible impact on people who lack guidance."
A year after the first moon landing, Knight Newspapers conducted a poll of 1721 U.S. citizens and found that more than 30 percent of all of the poll's respondents were "suspicious of NASA's trips to the Moon" with the number rising to over half in some demographic areas. The Newsweek article that published the poll results noted that among the respondents were "an elderly Philadelphia woman who thought the moon landing had been staged in an Arizona desert" and a "housewife" whose suspicions were based on her belief that her television could not "receive signals from the moon." Another respondent said, "It's all a deliberate effort to mask problems at home . . . the people are unhappy - and this takes their minds off their problems."
According to a 1999 Gallup poll, about 6 percent of the population of the United States has doubts that the Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon. (Five percent had no opinion, while 89 percent believed the landings took place.)