Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The speech Nixon never gave

"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 to 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."
This speech was written by William Safire for President Richard Nixon as a contingency in case the Apollo XI lunar module failed to lift off stranding Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Micheal Collins, safely in orbit, would have to return home alone leaving his colleagues behind.

If you have ever watched West Wing, you'll recognize that on more than one occasion, several different speeches are prepared for the president for different alternative possibilities which may occur.

This speech, and associated cover memos, was buried away in presidential archives until unearthed in 1999 by a Los Angeles Times reporter who told the tale as he discovered it. William Safire himself, now the noted word and language columnist for the New York Times, then wrote his own first-person recollections of how this speech came to be.

It's a fascinating story. And as a fan of the space program (see here, here and here), I found the speech chilling in it's unrealized implications.

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