Neil Armstrong’s personal letter to a Queensland teen
“I think I was a bit sweet on Neil, he was an astronaut, I was fangirling a little, but it was mostly just to congratulate them on the achievement.”
The small envelope had a handwritten address on the front, and a watermark from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“Dear Michelle,” the handwritten letter begins, “Thank you so much for your congratulations on the success of Apollo.
“I’ll pass on your good wishes to Mike and Buzz,” it continues, a charmingly casual reference to the other Apollo 11 astronauts, Michael Collins and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
“Best wishes for success in the future,” it concludes, and is signed “Neil Armstrong”.
Amid the massive cultural event that is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Ms Roshanbin said this small, personal piece of the story had always been a treasured possession.
She kept it in a drawer for many years, and eventually had it laminated to prevent it becoming damaged.
“That made the people at the museum very unhappy, apparently you’re not supposed to do that,” she said.
On the 40th anniversary of the landing she had shown the letter to friends, but with the Queensland Museum putting together its major exhibition to coincide with the 50th, her family encouraged her to lend it to the displays.
“I never thought anyone would be interested in it other than me, but the exhibition people were very excited by it,” she said.
The letter now has pride of place behind glass towards the end of the museum’s NASA – A Human Adventure exhibition, which showcases all NASA missions, with a special focus on the first moon landing.
The first man to walk on the moon was reportedly inundated with letters following his return from the lunar mission and subsequent world celebration tour.
The three Apollo astronauts even visited Sydney in 1969 as part of their tour of 22 countries between September and November that year.
Armstrong tried to reply to as many as he could personally, however by 1970 the number had become so great that people began to get a form letter and signed photo instead.
“I wouldn’t have minded getting the photo, but I’m so glad I got the handwritten response,” Ms Roshanbin said.
“It could have been just a standard thing, but he actually sat down and wrote to me personally.”
Now in her 60s, Ms Roshanbin remembers the sense of danger and excitement that surrounded the mission at the time.
“To be so far from Earth, and not really knowing if you would get back, it could have been a one-way ticket,” she said.
“They were explorers – you look back at the centuries before, people like Magellan, Captain Cook, Columbus, they sailed into unknown territory. The astronauts were modern explorers, going into a vast unknown.”
Ms Roshanbin retains a keen enthusiasm for all things space to this day, even signing up to have her name carried to the next frontier of human exploration – Mars.
Despite the memory of the moon landing still vivid in her mind, one detail remained hazy.
“My sister asked me, ‘How did you get the money off Mum for the stamp?’ and I honestly can’t remember,” she said.
“Mum was pretty frugal. I must have sweet-talked her somehow.”
NASA – A Human Adventure is running at the Queensland Museum until October.
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.