American Hero: Neil Armstrong

The unearthed ABC interview with Neil Armstrong's parents.
3:00 | 08/26/12

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Transcript for American Hero: Neil Armstrong
Across this country tonight, remembering an american hero. You likely woke up to the sunday papers this morning, "the washington post" talking about the small step. "The new york times" saying the giant leap. For the country at the time, this was so important. Tonight, we've unearthed the abc interview with neil arong's parents, just hours before he landed on the moon. That's one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind. Reporter: Almost a quarter of a million miles away, the moon came much closer that summer night. Because of neil armstrong's famous first step. Not quite 39 years old, that july evening, armstrong spent two hours, 21 minutes walking in the lunar dust. Taking pictures of his crew mates. Raising the american flag. And stretching america's imagination. So many parents watching with their children. Men from the planet earth, first set foot upon the moon. We came in peace for all man kind. Reporter: With americans divided at the time over the vietnam war, the moon landing, at least for one night, brought a deleague beleaguered country together. It was an american goal met. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things because that challenge is one that we're willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone and one we intend to win. Reporter: It turns out it was sheer happenstance that made armstrong the first man on the moon. Nasa's crews worked in rotation. And armstrong's crew was assigned to "apollo 11." He was a quiet, reserved man, born in small-town ohio. Fascinated with flying from his teens. And in the hours before armstrong landed on the moon, his parents back in his hometown, being interviewed by abc news. Do you have any idea what neil's first words might be when he steps off on the moon? Could you take a guess? I don't know. I won't say, because I don't know. I'm sure he'll be so thrilled that maybe he won't be able to find words. What do you think, mr. Armstrong? I have no idea what he'll say, but I hope he says something that unites the world. Reporter: They had no idea what the world would hear. In fact, it's believed armstrong came up with those historic words himself, on the way to the moon. He has said he thought he had said, "it was one small step for a man." That's one small step for man. Reporter: But later saying he probably left it out. That moon walk, by armstrong and aldrin, was the most-watched television broadcast in history, up to that point. 1 out of every 6 people on earth were watching. Later we learned that armstrong thought landing on the moon, not walking on it, was far more challenging. Shooting over the lunar surface, looking for a smooth space to touch down. Mission control had warned him he had less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining when they finally made it. Houston, the eagle has landed. Reporter: It was a singular moment for this country. National pride soaring when they came home. Greeted by crowds across america and in 29 other countries. After that, armstrong tried to return to a private life and making rare speeches to urge that exploration go on. 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. Reporter: Neil armstrong had said he did not want solely to be an icon, but he could never escape his place in history and where he made history. On the moon.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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