He also expressed a sense of fate about his work as a test pilot and astronaut, refusing to worry about future tasks because he thought something would go wrong first and he’d be otherwise engaged firing the ejection seat or scrambling to repair a valve.
As the launch day approached, Armstrong said preparations were on schedule. “A month before the launch of Apollo 11, we decided that we were confident enough we could try and attempt … a descent to the surface.”
Armstrong remembered the moment when he got the call to ask him if the rest of the crew of Apollo 11 were ready to land on the moon.
“The bosses asked, ‘Do you think you and your guys are ready?’ I said it’d be nice to have another month, but we’re in a race here and we had to take the opportunity when we had it. I had to say we are ready, we are ready to go.”
He described the crew’s harrowing 12-minute descent to the moon, when he realised that the Eagle lunar module’s auto-pilot was preparing to land the crew on the slope of a huge moon crater. “The computer showed us where it intended to land, and it was a very bad location, on the side of a large crater about 100-150m in diameter with very steep slopes covered with very large boulders – not a good place to land at all,” he said.
Armstrong took over the craft manually and managed to land it like a helicopter in a smoother area to the west with just 20 seconds of fuel left.
As for “that’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong says he didn’t think of those words until after they’d landed safely.
Of his time on the moon’s surface, he said: “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.”
Armstrong even had time to respond to the conspiracy theorists’ favourite question: Was the moon landing faked?
“People love conspiracy theories,” he replied. “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.”