In 1969, Chief of Staff and convicted Watergate conspirator H.R. Haldeman received a memo that was a draft of a speech for the president to give in case the Apollo 11 moon landing turned out to be a disaster. It didn’t, but the idea that we might strand our astronauts on the moon or in orbit to die of eventual oxygen deprivation is a horrifying one. It’s a harsh speech, and one I don’t think could be given today given its opening wordplay, its patriarchal language, and its extreme use of semicolons. You can see it here, and it reads:
“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 to 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 the 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.”