IT was one of the most momentous phone calls ever made. President Richard Nixon was speaking from the White House to astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, who were taking his call from the surface of the Moon.

“Because of what you have done the heavens have become a part of Man’s world, and as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to earth,” the president said.

“For one priceless moment in the whole history of Man all the people on this Earth are truly one – one in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”

A short while before that historic moment on July 20 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin had been having a no-less-important conversation by radio phone – with a builder’s son from Poole.

Ron Toms, a gifted former pupil of Poole Grammar School, was a Nasa scientist whose job included talking the Apollo 11 astronauts through the process of guiding the lunar capsule to the surface of the Moon.

Mr Toms died in 2006, but in 2003 he told the Daily Echo of the atmosphere at Nasa during the moments when Neil Armstrong took Man’s first steps on the Moon.

“It was celebration, it wasn’t tense. We expected Armstrong to go out first and to look around and we knew he would feel a very dusty surface and feel light-headed but he’d also feel very tired because the whole business of getting there would be very exhausting,” he said.

“We felt he wouldn’t be emotional about it. You couldn’t send somebody who was very excitable and felt overwhelmed by being there. He was very level-headed and methodical.”

Ron Toms came from the Longfleet Road area of Poole and went to Longfleet Mixed Infants and South Road School before passing the exam to go to Poole Grammar.

He excelled at maths and science but when his father died, his mother couldn’t afford to let him take up the offer of a scholarship to Cambridge.

Instead, he went to work in a factory at Park Gates East before being called up to the Royal Navy, where he became an air engineering officer. He gained one masters degree in the Navy and another, after the war, at London University.

After working on the design of Concorde for the Bristol Aeroplane Company, he helped develop Nasa’s jet propulsion laboratory.

After President John Kennedy declared his intention to send men to the Moon by 1970, Ron Toms was asked, as he put it, to “get some science aboard Apollo”. He said: “Apollo, at that time, was going to the Moon but there were no scientists among the astronauts.”

Ahead of the mission, he taught the astronauts about collecting good rock samples and conducting seismic tests.

He recalled the astonishing bravery of the early astronauts. Three had volunteered to go to the Moon even if there was no way to get home.

“They were the kind of heroes we sometimes got in wartime, who were particularly heroic because they don’t believe in danger. I really feel they think it’s a dangerous thing but ‘it won’t happen to me. I have a charmed life’.”

Ron’s brother Percy still lives in Poole, and had Ron’s ashes scattered at Brownsea Island after he was cremated in Hawaii. Last year, Percy was a guest of honour at the opening of Ron’s Room in the science department of Poole Grammar School.

Forty years after Apollo 11, millions remember staying up long into the night to watch the flickering images of the first man walking on the Moon. Ron Toms told the Echo in 2003: “For me and all of us on the team, that was the apex. What can you do that tops that? Even going to Mars, that’s just another place; maybe a little more complicated, but doing that one thing will never be topped.”

Amazing pictures from the Moon landings here. Then read the Echo’s original stories from the historic day here