On July 18 of 1969, the world was waiting anxiously for the Apollo 11 landing on the surface of the Moon. Because they were risking their lives, a speech had to be prepared for President Nixon to read in the event they were stranded on the moon with no way back. The President's speechwriter imagined the worst case scenario as he expertly wrote the following somber memo to President Nixon's Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman.
Its contents: a contingency plan, in the form of a speech to be read out to the nation and the world by Nixon should Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become stranded on the Moon, followed by some brief instructions relating to its broadcast.
Here's the full speech, written by future New York Times columnist William Safire.
The last sentence ... oh man!
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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