Sunday, August 26, 2012
Archaeology of the Cold War: Contingency Speech if Apollo 11 Had Failed
It was announced that Neil Armstrong (1930 - 2012) has passed away. This is something of a shock to me, as I had no idea that this was in any way expected, or that he was 82 years old. He seemed to me to be much younger, perhaps 75.
Apparently William Safire was a speech writer for the Nixon Administration, and as a contingency he wrote a speech for President Nixon in case the Apollo 11 mission failed catastrophically and both Armstrong and Aldrin had died.
Fortunately, it never had to be used. But it seems appropriate to resurrect this document now that Neil has passed away.
One policy note: it is pretty clear that one purpose of this speech was to try to forestall the necessity to spend the money and risk new lives to retrieve the bodies. That would certainly be expensive and, almost certainly at least as great a risk as what they had just taken and which had not worked out. Although understandable from their point of view it is unlikely to have worked. Americans have a tradition of bringing the bodies back home, it is deep in our culture, and the moon would have become a reproach to all of us that we had left our friends there had we not retrieved the bodies.
The following draft speech was written by "Bill" Safire, later known as William, on July 18, 1969, in other words, two days before the landing.