Friday (Moonday) was the 48th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s and Buzz Aldrin’s first walk by humanity on the moon. It was huge news in 1969. I was a small schoolboy and watched it live on television, as did 500 million other people around the world, the biggest audience ever back then for a live television broadcast. It is a sad reflection on the more pathetic side of today’s internet age that a large proportion of people, as measured by various opinion polls, believe it was all a hoax.
There have been real Armstrong hoaxes, though, including a much-denied 1980s one that he converted to Islam while on the moon. The best went round the internet in 1995, just as the net was starting to take off, but before search engines had been invented to help with fact-checking. I had just joined the net (using Netscape Navigator I, the first truly successful web browser) when a chain email fell in my inbox. It read:
Most people believe that when astronaut Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, his first, famous words were: “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” But in fact, as heard by Mission Control, he actually first muttered under his breath: “Good luck, Mr Gorsky.”
NASA officials thought it was a casual remark concerning a Soviet cosmonaut. But there was no Russian, or American, spaceman with the name Gorsky.Over the years, people questioned Armstrong about the cryptic remark. On July 5, 1995 in Tampa Bay, FL, while Armstrong was answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question. Armstrong finally responded. It seems that Mr Gorsky had died and so Armstrong felt he could answer the question.
When Armstrong was an eight-year-old growing up in a small Ohio town, he was playing baseball with his brother in the backyard one day. His brother hit a fly ball which landed in front of his neighbors’ bedroom window. The neighbors were Mr and Mrs Gorsky. As Armstrong went over to pick up the ball, he heard Mrs Gorsky shouting at Mr Gorsky, “Oral sex? You want oral sex? You’ll get oral sex when that little runt next door walks on the moon!”
It deserved to be true and was a good joke nonetheless. A book of such hoaxes was even published under the name Good luck, Mr Gorsky! I fear that some of those who believe Armstrong never walked on the moon might, ironically, actually believe this original piece of Fake News.
NASA image: Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon, Tranquility Base, 21 July 1969 NZST. Photo by Buzz Aldrin.