Thursday, March 24, 2016

The White House Was Prepared For Apollo 11 Catastrophe


In July 1969, the entire world was captivated by NASA's Apollo 11 moon landing mission. But at the time, the mission's success was far from certain. In fact, then President Richard Nixon even had a speech ready should Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin die on the moon.

Presidential speechwriter William Safire had prepared a statement for President Nixon, in the event of a catastrophe. Although the speech was never undelivered, its existence underscores some of the major concerns of NASA and the government in regards to space travel.

Stored in the National Archives, Nixon's speech first surfaced around the late 90's. The president was to deliver the prepared statement only in the event of complications that left the Apollo 11 astronauts stranded.

The following is the full text of the speech:

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 their 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 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.

The history of the program leading up to the lunar landing was filled with danger. Several Gemini missions had problems, while the tragic Apollo 1 fire claimed the lives of three American astronauts. The Apollo 13 mission, launched less than a year after the first lunar landing, brought that danger to the forefront again, when a spark from an exposed wire in an oxygen tank damaged the spacecraft. The world watched in fear as the three astronauts aboard struggled to reach home.

After Apollo?: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program (Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology)

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond

The Eagle Has Landed: The Story of Apollo 11

A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts



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