Someone recently called my attention to the National Archives. I’ve used the archives (www.archives.gov)to obtain transcriptions of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, but I hadn’t thought much about some of the lesser-known items that are held there.
Here’s one goody I came across. I’m old enough to remember sitting in front of a TV set late into the night in July of 1969 to see Neil Armstrong step onto the surface of the moon.
One background bit of information I have never known, however, was the contingency plan for what the President was to have said in case the astronauts were somehow stranded there, unable to return to Mother Earth.
It seems that William Safire, author of the widely syndicated newspaper column On Language, was asked to draft a speech, just in case Nixon needed to inform the world that our astronauts were doomed.
Here, copied straight from the national archives, is the text of that speech, followed by Safire’s instructions to the president.
To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire July 18, 1969
IN THE 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 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 COMMUNICATION 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.
The young daughter of a friend of mine has decided that she wants to be on the first manned flight to Mars. Every since she was six years old, that has been her goal.
I wonder who will be asked to write the contingency-plan speech for that event...
BEEattitude for Day #472:
Blessed are those who appreciate the ones who have gone before, for the path they fly will be more sure as a result.
The teeny details:
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