Nowadays, most pub conversations around the moon landing are based on whether it was a conspiracy or not. We don’t often pause to think what would have happened if they hadn’t made it.
This week 46 years ago, President Nixon didn’t quite have that luxury. As Apollo 11 rocketed into space, the U.S. president prepared a speech in the event that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn’t make it.
They ran the risk of launching the lunar module from the moon so that it could re-join the command module. If it failed, the two astronauts would have been left to desperately try and fix the lunar module until they ran out of oxygen.
This is what Nixon’s speechwriter Bill Safire (who went on to be a columnist at The New York Times) wrote just in case in 1969.