For the next eight days, the world will reflect upon the historic Apollo 11 mission, when America entered the history books by putting the first man on the moon — the first bold step into the final frontier of space exploration. Fortunately, Americans in 1969 never heard President Nixon speak these words in reference to the three astronauts who risked their lives to accomplish this historic feat: “there is no hope for their recovery.”
Despite the intense preparation, nobody knew for sure if the Apollo 11 mission would be successful. Anticipating the worst-case scenario, President Nixon asked his speechwriter, William Safire, to prepare a speech if the three astronauts — Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins — perished during their voyage from the Earth to the moon. Fortunately, that speech was never spoken publicly and has since remained a relic of a future-that-never-was at the Nixon Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.
“Entitled ‘IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER,’ Nixon’s speech would address Armstrong and Aldrin’s widows, as well as the nation,” reports Fox News.
Here is the humble, appropriately somber, speech that President Nixon thankfully never delivered in full:
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 to 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.
As noted by Newsweek, the speech from President Nixon remained largely forgotten until 30 years after the event of Apollo 11.
“The cautionary write up wasn’t revealed until nearly 30 years after the event when Safire, during a 1999 interview with ‘Meet the Press,’ explained the protocol was for Nixon to first contact the astronaut’s wives before addressing the public,” reports the outlet. “Safire said he delivered the speech to then Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman two days before Apollo 11’s moon landing.”
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