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First Man bracelet scene: Did Neil Armstrong really leave his daughter’s belonging on the moon?

The story behind one of the film's most emotional moments

Jacob Stolworthy
Tuesday 23 October 2018 09:20
First Man trailer

Neil Armstrong biopic First Man is now in cinemas, charting the astronaut’s preparations to become the first man on the moon.

The film, from Oscar-winning La La Land director Damien Chazelle, is set between the years of 1961-69 and delves into not only NASA’s dangerous mission but the reclusive Armstrong’s marriage to Janet Armstrong (Claire Foy).

*Spoilers follow – you have been warned*

Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A Armstrong by James R Hansen, the film - led by Ryan Gosling - deals with the death of the astronaut's two-year-old daughter from cancer which paves the way for an emotional scene towards the end of the film.

As he arrives on the moon, it’s revealed that Armstrong has brought his daughter’s bracelet with him, the same one he’s seen holding at various points throughout the film. In one of First Man’s most moving moments, he throws it into a giant crater before returning to complete his work.

But, did this moment really happen?

The jury is still out. While pretty much the entirety of First Man is based on factual accounts, this one plot point was added to the film “based on conjecture.”

Speaking to TheWrap, screenwriter Josh Singer said: “For Jim, after spending two years pursuing Armstrong and spending hours interviewing him and Janet [his wife] and his sister and everybody else, Jim started to get the idea that maybe Neil left something personal on the moon.“

He added: “Leaving tokens on the moon for loved ones or lost ones was something that was regularly done. So Jim started to wonder if Neil left anything that belonged to Karen behind and started looking through the manifest for Neil’s personal property kit and Neil said he had lost it.“

Armstrong, alongside Buzz Aldrin – played in the film by Corey Stoll – are both known to have taken personal kits to the moon, although Armstrong “never released any information about the contents of his PPK.”

Chazelle himself revealed that the decision was made to include the moment based on an official record of Armstrong venturing off alone for 10 minutes.

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He told The New York Times: “The idea for it did actually come from the historical record. Not that there’s a specific record of an object he left behind on the moon of Karen’s, but the parameters around it — we do know that Neil went off for about 10 minutes by himself, without being on comms or transmitting anything, to stand by this crater. And we know he brought at least one or two personal items that he did not disclose what they were.

“People that were close to him, specifically his biographer Jim and Neil’s sister, June, who Ryan and I spent some time with up in Ohio, hypothesised that he may have very well brought something that reminded him of Karen that he left on the moon.”

Singer maintained that he wouldn’t have included such a scene had Hansen not theorised that he could have brought one of his daughter’s belongings with him.

He continued: “If Jim [Hansen], who studied Neil for years and talked to Neil for hours and hours, and talked to Janet and June and everyone in his family. If he ... based on what he knew of Neil after all that time and based on all his interviews with everyone else said ‘I think I this happened. I think he left something of Karen’s on the moon’ ... I was like ‘All right, if it’s good enough for Jim, it’s good enough for me.’”

Chazelle stated that the fact Armstrong never confirmed what he brought with him “makes [the moment] even more beautiful.”

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