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Nixon's Speech Was Ready in Case of Apollo Disaster

4 years ago
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Forty years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. But their success was not preordained. In fact, Nixon speechwriter William Safire (on the advice of astronaut Frank Borman) prepared the following words for Nixon to deliver in the event of a disaster that might strand Armstrong and Aldrin on the lunar surface:

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.

It's not as eloquent as President Ronald Reagan's Challenger disaster speech, whose last line (they ". . . slipped the bounds of earth to touch the face of God") always stirs the soul, but Nixon was prepared nonetheless in case disaster struck that day in 1969.

Of course, the Apollo mission ended up a glorious success, but the fact that Nixon's speech existed is a reminder to us of just how dangerous and ambitious the mission was.

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