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29. In Event of Moon Disaster
December 2, 2010, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Everyday

Been catching up on the Letters of Note feed. They posted this memo from Nixon’s speech writer William Safire from July 18, 1969.  A beautiful relic. In it, there is a proposed statement should Aldrin and Armstrong’s moon mission fail.  Question: How many “should they fail” speeches are out there in the ocean of archives, all drippy with pathos?

But back to hypothetical moon disaster statement…

What’s especially creepy to me is the fact that Nixon’s statement would have aired immediately upon knowing the mission had gone awry (yet, of course, after “would-be widows” had been called).  His use of future tense = a real chilly kinda haunting.  So the astronauts would have still been out there in space, awaiting imminent death, while Nixon would have announced to the world that yes, our heroes were about to die.  I’m imagining these men floating in the ether, their brain activity low but the hearts and guts still churning, thanks to the support of the big fluffy white space suit.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  We’re in the future.  That never happened!  “One giant leap for mankind…” happened. But you have to wonder at the sincerity of Safire’s words (diplomatic as they are) formed in the theater of his head in the year 1969.  Side note: How about all those sincere fears and diary-like freak outs in the embassy cables brought to us by WikiLeaks this week?

But back to theater inside Safire’s head…

It’s best assuaged if you read Armstrong’s letter to the 1969 EMU (extravehicular mobility) crew, written in 1994, on the 25th anniversary of the moon landing. He pretty much thanks th crew for making a really awesome spacesuit that is 11 layers thick — a suit he calls “tough, reliable and almost cuddly.”

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Being stranded in space…. That to me, would be the scariest part of space travel, just floating and knowing you’re, well, going to be there a while. I wonder if they had suicide options?

Comment by jeffrey

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