Thursday, July 23, 2009

Apollo 11 anniversary

Wow, two "stuff that doesn't bug me" posts in one day! Don't worry -- I'll be back to my regularly scheduled rants soon enough.

From early childhood, I wanted to be an astronaut. Bad eyesight and an inability to do simple math made it obvious I'd never reach that goal, but I've never lost my interest in space. I've been enjoying all the retrospectives for the 40th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 mission to put the first human beings on the moon. The History Channel had a great program the other night -- excerpts of the live coverage on July 20, 1969 from CBS news, hosted by Walter Cronkite (rest in peace, Mr. Cronkite!). I just came across this next item, which is, fortunately, a little-known historical artifact: the speech Nixon would have given if Armstrong and Aldrin had been unable to return to rendezvous with Collins's command ship.

In a memo from Nixon’s speechwriter, Bill Safire, to White House chief of staff Harry Haldeman, dated July 18, 1969, housed until recently among Nixon's private papers in the national archives, entitled "In event of Moon disaster," are the following, extremely moving, words:

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 know 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.

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