Half a century has gone by since we landed on the moon and most of us sometimes forget how dangerous those early attempts were. In 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee all died in a fire inside the Apollo capsule. In that same year, cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died after Soyuz I’s braking parachute failed to deploy when the craft re-entered Earth’s atmosphere.
So it comes to no surprise that on July 18 of 1969, when people were anxiously sitting in front of their TV’s anxiously waiting for Apollo 11 to land on the moon, President Nixon’s speechwriter, William Safire, was preparing for the worst case scenario. In case something went wrong and astronauts were stranded on the Moon, President Nixon was ready to address the nation with a touching speech about the brave Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Thankfully, it was never needed. (the article continues after the ad)
Here’s the Presidential statement (transcript follows after the images):
To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire
July 18, 1969.
IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
PRIOR TO THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT:
The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be.
AFTER THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT, AT THE POINT WHEN NASA ENDS COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE MEN:
A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to “the deepest of the deep,” concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.
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Main Article Photo: NASA, The National Archives
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER