"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" (Neil Armstrong)

These words are now firmly established in the history of space travel, and at least according to his bio, was concocted by himself during his journey to the moon. But why was he allowed to do this (apparently without any supervision/approval by his employer, NASA)?

The entire Apollo 11 mission was planned in detail, and they intentionally broadcasted the historic moment live, so there's no doubt that this was a huge publicity stunt for NASA (and by extension the United States). Why didn't anybody think to have a script prepared by someone on the ground in advance so as to make most use of the moment? Nixon even had a speech ready in case something went wrong and the astronauts died; surely someone could have prepared an equally elegant speech for the greatest achievement of mankind. It's interesting because that moment on television probably had the widest audience reach ever; they could've used that moment to spread whatever propaganda they wanted and have it be heard by most of mankind.

...I mean what if the first words to come out of his mouth were "Hail Hydra"? That would've been a catastrophic embarrassment for the US.

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    @uhoh Not quite, but I understand the confusion. My main question is why NASA apparently didn't have any thing planned for him to say, given the significance of the moment, leaving Neil Armstrong to come up with his own. – Setsu Nov 17 at 5:11
  • I mean, even if he had been given a speech to say, he could've still said whatever he wanted. – Phiteros Nov 17 at 5:18
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    @Setsu , I think it's just a matter of "times were simpler then". Nowadays everything would involve huge PR companies and so on. – Fattie Nov 17 at 9:47
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    Have you read this? space.com/19119-neil-armstrong-quote-moon-controversy.html – Fattie Nov 17 at 9:47
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    @Setsu It’s hard to exercise any authority over an employee who is currently literally on the moon. – 11684 Nov 17 at 13:13
up vote 14 down vote accepted

I don't have a definitive answer to this question because I have never come across any discussion of NASA even considering the idea of giving the astronauts a script to read for part of the mission. As far as I know, that was just not something that NASA did or does now. The live TV broadcasts on the way to the moon were not scripted, just as the ISS tours you can see on YouTube today are, to my understanding, put together by the astronauts themselves.

In Apollo 8, the astronauts read from Genesis while in orbit about the Moon. According to astronaut Frank Borman, "...the only instructions that we got from NASA was to do something appropriate."

I do think letting the astronauts speak for themselves has worked out well from a PR point of view. It tended to focus attention more on the genuine exploratory aspects of the mission and less on the (also genuine) showing-off aspects of the mission. Which can be an effective way of showing off.

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    +1 I'd guess that by the time they get to space, most astronaut have decided that they like going to space and would like to do it again, and so there's probably a strong personal incentive not to do things that would embarrass the space program that would be stronger than any rule would be. – uhoh Nov 17 at 6:37
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    @uhoh , it's worth remembering the times, the guy was 100% military and "career government", I think it's inconceivable he would have said anything silly! – Fattie Nov 17 at 9:50
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    +1 Good answer! I like the bit about Apollo 8 as it provides insight into what NASA's stance was on situations where astronauts would be directly facing the public. – Setsu Nov 17 at 18:25

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