It was small enough to fit in a pocket, and it almost came back to Earth in Buzz Aldrin's. He was already climbing back into the Eagle, probably distracted by the risky manoeuvre which was to see them re-launch to re-connect with the Apollo 11 mothership piloted by Michael Collins.

What Aldrin had forgotten, until Neil Armstrong reminded him from the checklist, was the silicon disc on which were included messages from 73 world leaders, including Indira Gandhi and Pope Paul VI. He quickly lobbed it into the Sea of Tranquillity.

The disc was intended to be concordant with the tone of Armstrong's first words: America had made the achievement of reaching the moon, but that achievement was for mankind as a whole.

That theme had been spelled out in February 1969, in three of the key points listed by Willis H Shapley who was in charge of symbolic activities:

The activities should be in good taste from a world perspective; an historic "forward step for all mankind theme"; make it clear that this was an American accomplishment, symbolised by placing the U.S. flat on the moon's surface, without implying U.S. sovereignty on the moon.

The little, brittle disc contained messages such as this rather sombre one from Trinidad and Tobago: "It is our earnest hope for mankind, that while we gain the Moon, we shall not lose the world"  ____________________________________________________________

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