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Richard Nixon's first phone call to the moon was pretty awkward

Richard Nixon calls the moon and makes it feel uncomfortable.
Richard Nixon calls the moon and makes it feel uncomfortable.
Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

Forty-six years ago today, Richard Nixon used this avocado-green phone to make the first phone call to the moon. It was kind of uncomfortable.

The avocado moon phone

The avocado moon phone. Do not call the number on this phone, or you'll accidentally call the White House, like I did. (NARA)

That ultimate long-distance call, via telephone-to-radio transmission, happened at 11:49 pm in the Oval Office. You can watch it here, filmed in grainy Super-8.

So what made it awkward? Though the president had a few profound statements prepared — he called it "the most historic call ever made from the White House" — Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin said they didn't have any warning about the call or time to prepare something to say. Nixon sprang the call on them, then asked them to go in front of the TV camera and respond live, to the world.

Armstrong came up with a few good phrases, like the "vision for the future," but Aldrin didn't have anything to say, so he didn't pipe up. "The conversation was short," Aldrin later wrote in his autobiography, "and for me, awkward."

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