On July 18, 1969, while the public was anxiously following the news of the flight of Apollo 11 to the surface of the moon, presidential speechwriter William Safire was preparing a contingency memo which contained a speech to be delivered by U.S. President Richard Nixon in case an unforeseen disaster occurs, and some other directives:
July 18, 1969
9 Orme Court,
LONDON. W. 2.
To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire
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 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.
PRIOR TO THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT:
The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be.
AFTER THE PRESIDENTS 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.
As we now know, this memo was unneeded as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins successfully landed to the moon and safely returned to Earth. Nonetheless, it’s disconcerting to ponder upon an alternative event wherein things didn’t go as planned.