USPresident Nixon had this 'Moon Disaster' speech ready in case Apollo 11 astronauts died
50 Years Later: The pen that saved Apollo 11
The Apollo 11 mission could have ended in disaster, if it were not for some astronaut ingenuity and a felt-tipped pen.
President Nixon had this ' Moon Disaster ' speech ready in case Apollo 11 astronauts died . In short, Borman wanted a backup speech ready in case the Apollo 11 crew died . NASA anticipated that the highest risk of death for Armstrong and Aldrin would come during their launch off the moon ' s
Three Apollo 11 astronauts went to the moon (two landed) and safely returned to Earth in July 1969. So, shortly before the mission, Apollo 8 astronaut and White House liaison Frank Borman called President In short, Borman wanted a backup speech ready in case the Apollo 11 crew died .
The Apollo 1 mission was designed to launch a spacecraft into low-Earth orbit. But it ended in tragedy when a fire killed three astronauts in their spaceship during a routine pre-launch test.
The deadly fire led NASA to postpone other planned crewed launches. No missions were labeled Apollo 2 or 3.
The Apollo 4, 5, and 6 missions launched no astronauts but were critical in paving the way for crewed missions. They occurred between November 1967 and April 1968.
Apollo 7 launched on October 11, 1968, and it was the first crewed test of the spaceship that was built to orbit the moon. It was also the first live-TV broadcast of Americans in space.
On Christmas Eve of 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts Jim Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman became the first people to orbit the moon.
The Apollo 9 mission stayed in low-Earth orbit and tested all the major components that would be essential for a lunar landing. It featured the first crewed test of the spacecraft designed to land on the moon.
Apollo 10, the first of three crewed moon missions that took place in 1969, was described as a "dress rehearsal" for the first lunar landing.
An estimated 530 million people around the world watched as Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.
A few months after Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon, NASA sent another spacecraft to the lunar surface in the Apollo 12 mission.
The Apollo 13 mission blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970, but things went terribly wrong about 56 hours into the trip to the moon.
NASA made another successful lunar landing the following year. Apollo 14 astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa launched from the Kennedy Space Center on January 31, 1971.
Astronauts used a wheeled Lunar Roving Vehicle for the first time during the Apollo 15 mission to study the moon's geology.
NASA used the Apollo 16 mission to explore the moon's highlands for the first time.
Apollo 17 was the last mission to bring people to the moon.
Nearly half a century has passed since the Apollo 17 mission, but NASA is now working to get astronauts back to the moon's surface.
Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969,and stepped off a tiny and onto the surface of the moon as the world watched live.
Armstrong, Aldrin, and Michael Collins - who remained in orbit around the moon- had blasted into space atop a giantfour days prior, on July 16, 1969. The three men safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24.
Although the plucky astronaut crew made the mission look easy, NASA knew better: This was easily the most perilous voyage in history.
So, shortly before launch,astronaut and White House liaison Frank Borman called President Nixon's speechwriter, William Safire.
"You'll want to consider an alternative posture for the President in the event of mishaps," Borman told Safire, according to an NBC "Meet The Press"on July 18, 1999.
At first, Safire didn't understand what Borman meant - he told NBC that it sounded like "gobbledygook" - but Borman quickly clarified.
"I can hear [Borman] now: 'Like what to do for the widows,'" Safire said.
In short, Borman wanted a backup speech ready in case the Apollo 11 crew died.
NASA anticipated that the highest risk of death for Armstrong and Aldrin would come during their launch off the moon's surface on July 21, when they would return to lunar orbit and meet up with Collins inside the Command Module.
"But 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 NBC's Tim Russert.
"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," Safire said. "And so we prepared for that with a speech that I wrote, and the President was ready to give that."
Two days into the moon mission - on July 18, 1969 - Safire sent a draft of his "In Event of Moon Disaster" speech to H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Nixon's chief of staff.
Here's the full speech, which first came to light in 1999:
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.
7 modern lessons from the Apollo moon landing
NASA faced a host of challenges -- politically, technologically, and financially -- as it sought to reach the moon in the 1960s. The strategies it employed can still inform space and other technology leaders today on how to pursue big goals and recover from the inevitable setbacks: What's your moon shot"? When President Kennedy set America on the course to the moon he sought a game-changing goal. Why? Because we were seemingly losing to the Russians in space and in the international political arena. To change the game, JFK changed the goal – to one that at the time seemed impossible.
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.
You can see pictures of theat the US National Archives site.
Near misses could have ended Apollo 11 in tragedy
If several risky moments had gone another way, Nixon may have had to use that speech.
One such close call came as Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon: They overshot their landing site by 4 miles, and the new spot was dangerously rocky.of the spacecraft and directed it to safer ground, all while alarms blared as the flight computer malfunctioned. They landed with just 45 seconds' worth of fuel left in the landing tank.
Then, during their 21 hours on the moon's surface, Aldrinthat a critical circuit breaker on the lunar module was broken.
"You get ready to land, you push that thing in … You get on the surface of the moon, you pull that out. If you wanna come home, you gotta push that thing in again, but it's broken off," Aldrin said at an event celebrating the moon-landing anniversary at The Explorers Club in New York City, according to.
"If they couldn't get off, they were dead men, and I was getting home by myself," Collins added.
Luckily, Aldrin jerry-rigged the breaker by pushing the button in using a pen.
Yet another near miss that put the astronauts at risk wasonly in recent weeks: As the Apollo 11 crew reentered Earth's atmosphere and prepared to land in the Pacific Ocean, a discarded service module from their spaceship didn't jettison away from from the vehicle carrying the astronauts as planned. That put them at risk of a crash.
"If things had gone bad, we could have lost the Apollo 11 crew," Gary Johnson, an Apollo program engineer, told Nancy Atkinson, the author of aon the subject. "We were lucky."
This post has been updated. It was originally published on July 23, 2017.
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