Neil Armstrong Opens Up In Rare Interview

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Robert Siegel discusses a rare one-on-one interview Neil Armstrong gave in Australia.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now to an astronaut known for a historic leap.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

NEIL ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

SIEGEL: The words of Neil Armstrong. As almost everyone knows, he was the first man to walk on the moon. But did you know that Armstrong's father was a government auditor? Well, Alex Malley did.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ALEX MALLEY: Neil Armstrong, a very warm welcome to Australia.

ARMSTRONG: Thank you so much.

MALLEY: The words...

SIEGEL: Late last year in Sydney, Armstrong sat down with Malley for a rare interview. Malley is the CEO of CPA Australia, an association of accountants. As far as we can tell, he has no expertise in space flight. He says the accounting connection helped him land the interview. It was just recently made available on the Internet.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

MALLEY: What did your parents collectively teach you, and give you, as a foundation?

ARMSTRONG: Well, they - my father was an auditor, and he audited the books of county governments across the state where we lived - the State of Ohio.

SIEGEL: Neal Armstrong opens up about his parents, his boyhood fascination with flight, his time in the Korean War and, of course, the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. And this interview is unusual, according to Andrew Chaikin. He's the author of "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts."

ANDREW CHAIKIN: You know, Neil does give occasional interviews. But to see him sit down for this long, and talk in this kind of detail, on video - I've only seen it one other time.

SIEGEL: And remember, it has been 43 years since Armstrong landed on the moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ARMSTRONG: Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You've got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

ARMSTRONG: It was special and memorable, but it was only instantaneous because there was work to do. We weren't there to meditate. We were there to get things done. So we got on with it.

SIEGEL: Finally, as the 40-minute interview nears its end, Alex Malley asks Armstrong this question: Was the moon landing faked?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

ARMSTRONG: People love conspiracy theories. I mean, they are very attractive. But it was never a concern to me because I know one day, somebody is going to go fly back up there and pick up that camera I left.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: And that - another trip to the moon - will depend on the government's priorities, and perhaps on the ongoing success of SpaceX.

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