(Vocus) June 5, 2009
What influenced Neil Armstrong to utter his famous words, "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind?" Could it have been the "forward step for all mankind" theme that Willis Shapley, a largely unknown figure at NASA, proposed to decision makers in February 1969?
Exactly 40 years later, that is one of the topics that is explored in the acclaimed book "We Came in Peace for all Mankind: The Untold Story of the Apollo 11 Silicon Disc" by Tahir Rahman. Rahman, a space author, plans a book signing tour that kicks off at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum this summer.
The Apollo 11 astronauts left the stars and stripes, a plaque declaring "We Came in Peace for All Mankind," and a tiny silicon disc with encrypted messages from many world leaders. As U.S. State Department officials scrambled to solicit messages of goodwill from many nations, brilliant engineers used the latest semiconductor technology in 1969 to enshrine the messages on material suitable for the harsh lunar environment. NASA officials also wanted to make it clear that it was an American accomplishment while balancing "good taste" from a world perspective, without implying U.S. sovereignty on the moon, Rahman writes. Many leaders responded to the request.
One such message from the Ivory Coast stated: "...I also hope that he (first moonwalker) would tell the moon how beautiful it is when it illuminates the nights of the Ivory Coast. I especially wish that he would turn towards our planet Earth and cry out how insignificant the problems which torture men are, when viewed from up there..."
Another message from Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinadad and Tobago, simply warned: "It is our earnest hope for mankind, that while we gain the moon, we shall not lose the world."
The second moonwalker, Buzz Aldrin, landed with Armstrong at the same time. Aldrin revealed some tense moments.
"Neil Armstrong and I almost forgot to leave the silicon disc on the moon, but no one should forget the messages beautifully portrayed in 'We Came in Peace for All Mankind.' The disc will last on the lunar surface for 1,000 years."
Aldrin had already climbed back into the lunar module when Armstrong reminded him about the disc. He removed the tiny package from his sleeve pocket and literally threw it onto the moon near the Sea of Tranquility.
Rahman, a space enthusiast for the past 15 years who lives in Kansas City, stumbled upon the fascinating story of the disc and a replica while searching for some space memorabilia in Florida. After much research, he found great stories behind the creation of the disc, which the first lunar astronauts almost forgot to leave on the moon. The fragile disc contains microscopic messages from 73 world leaders including Queen Elizabeth II, Indira Gandhi, the Shah of Iran and Pope Paul VI.
The book traces the history of the disc's development and includes a library of all the messages in their native script, such as Chinese, Arabic and Hebrew. There is an ornate framed microscopic message from Pope Paul VI.
The book is receiving rave reviews from space historians.
"Tahir Rahman's book tells for the first time the full story of this unique object--and in doing so, offers a fresh look at the symbolic importance of the first moon landing," writes Margaret A. Weitekamp, curator of the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institution. "The glossy, elegant layout allows the reader to consider fully each note and its source."
The book was recently recognized with the Eric Hoffer Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing.
For more information, email info(at)silicondisc.com. Rahman's book is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.