Neil Armstrong, who died on Saturday, is being remembered as the astronaut who took the the first step on the moon.
But the successful lunar landing on July 20, 1969, was not a given. A memo of a speech drafted by William Safire just days before the landing, is surfacing again on the Web. The memo is titled "In Event of Moon Disaster."
Back in 1999, William Safire discussed the undelivered speech with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet The Press."
Safire was asked to consider an alternative to a successful moon landing.
Nixon's speech writer explained, "At that time, the most dangerous part of the moon mission, was getting the moon module back up into orbit and join the command ship."
Safire added, "But if they couldn't , they would have to be abandoned on the moon, left to die there. And mission control would have to close down communication. The men would either starve to death or commit suicide."
The moving text of the speech, sent to President Nixon's chief of staff, H.R. Halderman, was thankfully never used. It begins, "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."
The speech continues,
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.
- William Safire