Along with Bob Hope's stated belief that the view south from his Warwick Hotel penthouse suite was the prettiest sight he had ever seen, the fact that "Houston" was the first word uttered on the moon ranks as one of our fair city's boosters most-bruited-about factoids.
It's easy to believe that nobody outside of the Bayou City particularly cares. A while back, as part of a marketing research campaign, Utah billboard company Reagan Outdoor and marketing firm Foster Research polled 300 residents of Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo -- Utah's three principal metropolises -- asking them what word was first to be uttered from the lunar surface. Only 1.3 percent responded with the correct answer. (As a control, Reagan also asked the same group to name the Lieutenant Governor of Utah. Only 3 percent could correctly answer.)
So to demonstrate the awesome power of billboard advertising, Reagan has planted numerous billboards like the one pictured all over the Wasatch Front, as Utah's most populous region is known. After 28 days, Foster Research will conduct another poll, asking the Utahns the same question. And then they will do it again after hammering the message home for 28 more days.
After all that, Reagan and Foster expect that the number of people able to correctly name Houston as the first word spoken on the moon will, um, skyrocket like Apollo 11, while those who can name the lieutenant governor will remain the same.
Ken Foster, president of Foster Research, told Salt Lake City TV station KSL that the question was chosen to honor last year's 40th anniversary of the moon landing."This is just a fun little experiment," he tells Hair Balls. "I doubt I will win the Pulitzer with this study or anything like that."
So far, if online comments are anything to go, the campaign is less than popular.
"I realize that they wanna do some research to improve their business, but why on earth is this considered news?" said one commenter.
"Why we let hideous billboards stand between us and our beautiful scenery is beyond me. I wish Utah communities banned billboards like communities do in other locations," longed another.
And a third pedantically pointed out that "Houston" was not in fact the first word spoken on the
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"The first words on the moon was 'contact.' That is when the contact pin hit the moon before the landing gear did, Neil said 'contact light.' Then Buzz said all the reporting on their situation 'Descent engine command override, off -- engine arm, off -- 413 is in.' Then, after a few moments, 'Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.'
And a fourth predictably chimed in with this little nugget:
"What most people are not seeing is that the message on the billboard is a complete LIE! The Apollo moon landings are the biggest hoax played out on the people of the world. It was all played out on huge movie sets directed by Stanley Kubrick (eyes wide shut, 2001 a space odyssey), There is a lot more behind the STUPID billboard than meets the eye. Wake up and start seeing."
So there we have it. Houston was not the first word spoken on the Moon, even if we had really gone there, which we haven't, and even if we had and it was, people in Salt Lake City don't want to know about it.