Here's the 'moon disaster' speech President Nixon had prepared if the moon landing mission went wrong

Here's the 'moon disaster' speech President Nixon had prepared if the moon landing mission went wrong

Nearly 50 years ago, people all around the world were glued to their television screens, as they watched humankind take its first steps on the moon. While many were fearful that the three astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 would not make it back to the Earth safely, they likely didn't know how much danger they were really in.

Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins made it to space atop a Saturn V rocket on July 16 1969, and by July 24 they returned, landing in the North Pacific Ocean. Despite the success of NASA's mission, there was actually a speech prepared for President Richard Nixon to read in the case of catastrophe.

Disaster was most likely to strike after the moon landing, at the point in which Armstrong and Aldrin returned to join Collins inside the Command Module. Apollo 8 astronaut and White House liaison Frank Borman called Nixon's speechwriter, William Safire, to warn him of this potential travesty.

"You'll want to consider an alternative posture for the President in the event of mishaps," Safire recalled Borman telling him, "I can hear [Borman] now: 'Like what to do for the widows'."

"If they couldn't [launch], and there was a good risk that they couldn't, then they would have to be abandoned on the moon, left to die there," Safire told an interviewer in 1999.

"Mission Control would then have to — to use their euphemism — 'close down communication,' and the men would have to either starve to death or commit suicide," he said. "And so we prepared for that with a speech that I wrote, and the President was ready to give that."

On July 18, two days into the mission, Safire sent a draft of his speech, titled 'In Event of Moon Disaster', to H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff. The full speech reads as follows:

"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."

While this was a wonderful moment of celebration for the United States, it's chilling to think about what could have happened if things had turned out worse.