That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969, soon after landing on the moon. Uganda had no representative at the Kennedy Space Centre where the trip to the moon started from, save for a small flag.
This applied to all members of the United Nations at the time who had their flags flying at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
That piece of history, when it reached Uganda was supposed to sit in the parliamentary foyer for the public to see.
Edward Ochwo was the clerk to Parliament in 1969 when a piece that is Ugandan that has ever reached the moon was officially handed over to the Ugandan government.
“About a month after the famous moon landing by Neil Armstrong, Uganda shared in that glory. One afternoon, in 1969, it must have been around September or October, at the parliamentary building, I received the American Ambassador to Uganda, Henry Endicott Stebbins and I ushered him into the office of Speaker Narendra Patel.
The ambassador presented the Speaker with a small sealed glass box. In it was Uganda’s national flag and a piece of rock. The ambassador told the Speaker that the contents of the box, the piece of rock and a small Uganda flag, were from the moon. The ambassador also cautioned the Speaker against having the box opened for fear of it containing toxic fumes that may be dangerous to humans, though it had been tested in the US before sending it over to Uganda. The presentation was not a big ceremony, as it happened in the office of the Speaker.
The ambassador said all flags of United Nations member states were flown to the moon and each received a “piece of the moon”.
The inscription on the box read ‘presented to the people of Uganda by Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America. The flag of your nation was carried to the moon and back by Apollo II, and this fragment of the moon surface was bought to the earth by the crew that manned the first lunar landing.’
A few days after receiving the box, the Speaker announced to the House the kind of gift he had received from the American government.
Patel went on to tell the parliamentarians the gift was to the people of Uganda, not just the Parliament. The box was placed in the foyer for public view. The small flag in the box was exactly what went to the moon and returned.
One thing I know was that Uganda had not requested for the piece of rock, but it was a gift from the Americans in their campaign to prove to the world that they had reached the moon.
Soon after the return of the space shuttle, conspiracy theories started going around that the said American Apollo II space shuttle had not reached the moon. Speaker Patel ordered that the glass be displayed in the foyer of the parliamentary building not only for the members of Parliament, but also for the members of the public who may come to Parliament to see it.”