Apollo 11 Death Speech: Here's What Nixon Would've Said If Everyone Died On The Moon

As history would have it, the Apollo 11 moon landing would become one of America's greatest achievements. The iconic mission, which celebrates its 50 anniversary on Saturday, not only marked Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's walk on the moon but also bridged the gap between mankind and the stars, as President Richard Nixon expressed during his historical phone call to the courageous men on July 20, 1969.

While Nixon's televised phone call to the men on the moon inspired the masses—particularly when the president's line, "because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world"—the commander in chief was prepared to deliver a different kind of speech to the American people if the astronaut's mission resulted in failure.

Apollo 11 Death Speech: Here's What Nixon Would've Said If Everyone Died On The Moon
Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 spacesuit is seen after being unveiled for the first time in thirteen years, at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, on July 16, 2019, during the 50th anniversary of the launch mission. ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP/Getty Images

After all, the risks of the mission were incredibly high. Armstrong and Aldrin not only needed to safely land the Lunar Module on the moon, but they also had to successfully pilot the aircraft back into the Earth's orbit and return to the Command Module, where astronaut Michael Collins awaited them. Then all three of the men had to get back down to Earth.

If Armstrong and Aldrin failed to sync in Earth's orbit, there were plans for NASA to cut communication with the men on the moon and direct Collins back to the planet.

So, Nixon prepared for the worst. The 37th president assigned White House Speechwriter William Safire to write a speech just in case there was a "moon disaster." However, the cautionary write up wasn't revealed until nearly 30 years after the event when Safire, during a 1999 interview with Meet the Press, explained the protocol was for Nixon to first contact the astronaut's wives before addressing the public.

Safire said he delivered the speech to then Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman two days before Apollo 11's moon landing.

If the men would have died on the moon, Nixon's speech would have started with the impactful yet somber statement, "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 continued. "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."

Nixon's speech went on to harp on the state of the wonder of the moon and the universe and how it captivated not only the astronauts but men of ancient societies as well.

"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," the speech continued. "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.

The speech concluded: "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."

Apollo 11 Death Speech: Here's What Nixon Would've Said If Everyone Died On The Moon | Culture