As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission – the last time humans walked on the Moon – I am reminded of a short piece I wrote almost a decade ago about the immediate plans if the first mission, Apollo 11 went horribly wrong. For this piece I’ve kept the original title.
Some of us will be old enough to remember being glued to the television set when Neil Armstrong left the lunar module and ‘finally’ stepped on to the surface of the moon. We remember too, the image of President Nixon phoning the famous adventurers.
The first moon landing went without a hitch, culminating in that call from Nixon. Nixon would not have made that call, obviously, in the event of a disaster.
What would have he done instead?
For those wanting a break from the turbulent affairs of Australian politics, you may wish to read on. I’ve been shown this interesting document that tells us what Nixon would have done, or said, as an alternative to his famous call.
There was always the strong chance that the mission would fail. There was always the possibility that those men never returned home, being stranded on the lunar surface. In that event, a speech was drawn up which Nixon would have delivered to a shocked world. Titled “In event of moon disaster” it reads:
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 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.
Damn interesting, don’t you agree? It certainly makes one think of the alternative.
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