What if the Apollo 11 Mission Had Failed? Here's the Speech Nixon Didn't Have to Give
President Nixon was no less relieved in his radio/phone call to the astronauts, saying, "I just can't tell you how proud we all are of what you've done. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. And for people all over the world, I am sure they too join with Americans in recognizing what an immense feat this is. Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world. And as you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to Earth. For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one: one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth."
After 21 hours and 31 minutes in the lunar surface Armstrong and Aldrin returned to the command module Columbia, kept in lunar orbit by Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and made their way back to Earth, safely splashing down on July 22, 1969.
But as with any venture that dares the horizon nestled beyond the world that we know, the success of the Apollo 11 was never guaranteed. Among other challenges, the astronauts aboard Eagle landed with less than 50 seconds worth of fuel, missed their first landing site and, in preparing for their moonwalk, broke a circuit breaker controlling one of the engines that would return them to the command module.
Any of those events could have meant the end for the Apollo astronauts: an end that, in its worst case, would have left them stranded on the moon until they died.
Aware of those hazards, President Nixon had prepared another speech – a speech that, fortunately, he never had to give – meant to address a nation that surely would have been shocked to the core with grief and disbelief.
Here's the original text of the speech Nixon would have given in the event that the Apollo 11 mission failed.
"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."