9.13 How come Neil Armstrong once spoke of removing “truth's protective layers”?

IN A NUTSHELL: He was referring to scientific truth, since he was talking to students to encourage them to make new discoveries.

THE DETAILS: Conspiracy theorist Richard Hoagland noted more than once that Neil Armstrong, during a public speech, mentioned “truth’s protective layers”.

These words are seen, by him and by many other conspiracy theorists, as a cryptic confession of some secret that involved him. This secret, it is claimed, is clearly tied to his mission to the Moon, Apollo 11.

Let’s gather the facts. The speech being referenced is the one he made at the White House for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first Moon landing, on July 20, 1994, in front of then president Bill Clinton and vice president Al Gore. Armstrong’s Apollo 11 crewmembers, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, were also there (Figure 9.13-1).

Figure 9.13-1. Neil Armstrong”s speech at the White House (1994).

Here is a transcript of Armstrong’s short speech:

Wilbur Wright once noted that the only bird that could talk was the parrot, and he didn’t fly very well [laughter from the audience], so I'll be brief. This week America has been recalling the Apollo program and reliving the memories of those times in which so many of us here, the colleagues here in the first rows, were immersed. Our old astrogeology mentor, Gene Shoemaker, even called in one of his comets [laughter from the audience] to mark the occasion with spectacular Jovian fireworks [he is referring to the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet, which crashed into Jupiter on July 16-22, 1994] and reminding us one again of the power and consequence of celestial extracurricular activities.

Many Americans were part of Apollo, about one or two in each thousand citizens, all across the country. They were asked by their country to do the impossible -- to envisage, to design and to build a method of breaking the bonds of Earth's gravity and then sally forth and visit another heavenly body. The principal elements -- leaving earth, navigating in space and descending to a planet unencumbered with runways and traffic controls -- would include the major requirements necessary for a spacefaring people.

Today a Space Shuttle flies overhead with an international crew. A number of countries have international space programs. During the space age we have increased the knowledge of our universe a thousandfold.

Today we have with us a group of students, among America's best. To you we say: we’ve only completed the beginning. We leave you much that is undone. There are great ideas undiscovered, breakthroughs available to those who can remove one of truth's protective layers. There are places to go beyond belief. Those challenges are yours -- in many fields, not the least of which is space, because there lies human destiny. Thank you.

This is the context in which Neil Armstrong speaks the words in dispute: he is addressing students, to whom he is passing the torch, inviting them to discover hidden truths just like any scientist does when he or she tries to unmask the secrets of nature, which tends to protect them; he is also asking them to do so in any field, not just in space.

In other words, conspiracy theorists are forcing an interpretation of Armstrong’s words to adapt them to theire predefined argument.

NEXT: Chapter 10. Alternative realities