One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind, that was roughly what Neil Armstrong's speechwriter said as Armstrong stepped from the spacecraft on to the surface of the moon, watched eagerly and jealously from inside the spacecraft by Buzz Aldrin and... the other one. And to celebrate this momentous anniversary we are devoting the whole of this column to a tribute to that great day. In the course of this article we will be bringing you interviews with people who were actually involved, testimony from experts on how the moon landings changed the way we see things, and vox pop interviews with people in the street to see how many of them can remember the name of the third guy.
First of all, we bring you an exclusive interview with Professor Lance Zetterlin, an expert on anniversaries. I'm going to ask him why we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the moon landings, when we normally ignore 30th anniversaries of anything.
"Well, that's not quite true. There are two different kinds of celebration of events. There's the celebration of an event which happened long before anyone was born, such as the birth of Mozart or discovery of America. And there's the celebration of an event which everyone who is old enough can remember, like VE Day or Kennedy's death. President Kennedy, I mean. The first kind attracts centenaries and bicentenaries, but you can hardly wait a hundred years to celebrate events in living memory, can you?"
I suppose not.
"Also, broadcast schedules are rather thin at this time of year, so everyone's relieved to have something to peg programmes on."
One last question. Can you remember the name of the other guy beside Armstrong and Aldrin?
"Yes, it was... Hold on a minute. Was it John Glenn?"
No. He did the first trip round the moon, I think. Or was it the earth? He never actually landed.
"In that case, I haven't the faintest idea."
So there we are. Now, in this special Moonday Column, we're going to look at the impact of the moon landings on art, culture, books, films, music and tattooing. Here in the studios we've got twelve pundits to talk us through that one. We haven't time for all of them, so we're going to draw a name from a hat. The chosen pundit is... hold on a minute... Zoe Fulton! Zoe, you're the pop culture correspondent of Brides magazine, aren't you?
"Yes, that's right."
How have the moon landings affected the way we live now?
"Well, in two ways, really. One is that the moon always used to be something up there. `Blue moon, you saw me standing there...', `How high the moon', and so on. But now it's place where you can actually be, as in Michael Jackson's "Dancing on the Moon", and Sting's "Walking on the Moon"
That's very true, if really boring. And the other difference?
"Well, when we saw people land on the moon, we realised that the way they really moved there was very slow and ponderous. They had to wear big suits, and there was no way they could ever have good fights, with guns or fists. So science fiction films decided to ignore the new reality and carry on as if nothing had happened."
Right. And who was the third guy with Armstrong and Aldrin?
"I go along with the theory that there was no third guy. We only imagined him."
Right. Also with us is Professor Diggle, an expert in statistics, who has a theory about the landing. He points out that two of the three astronauts had names beginning with A - Aldrin and Armstrong. The chances of that happening by accident are remote. He therefore believes that NASA was sending astronauts to the moon in alphabetical order. Professor Diggle, would you like to add to that?
"No. You have expressed it as well as I could."
But surely that would only hold water if the other guy's name also began with A, or B or C?
"Oh, but it did. His name was Michael Collins."
Heavens above! With the momentous discovery that NASA actually was sending men to the moon in alphabetical order, we return to earth, and normality, and Northern Ireland...