Nixon’s Apollo 11 Contingency Speech

June 16, 2009 at 9:59 pm (Astronomy, Death, NASA, Technology, The Cold War) (, , , , )

201px-Apollo_11_insignia

On July 20, 1969, two American astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 Lunar Module became the first human beings to set foot on the surface of the moon, dealing a massive blow to the USSR (which only 12 years earlier had bested the United States with the launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite, sparking the Cold War “Space Race”). The Apollo mission was a success and the astronauts returned home unharmed. However, since this mission involved the use of new technology, there was no guarantee that everything would go smoothly. Just in case a malfunction left the astronauts trapped in space with no way to return home, president Nixon had the following speech prepared.

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Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are the only two astronauts mentioned in this speech, presumably due to the fact that Michael Collins never set foot on the moon, remaining in orbit aboard the command module.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are the only two astronauts mentioned in this speech, presumably due to the fact that Michael Collins never set foot on the moon, remaining in orbit aboard the command module.

This makes one wonder whether the astronauts aboard Apollo 11 were aware that the president of the United States was prepared to announce their quietus to the world, perhaps in the chilling hours while they were still alive, trapped on the moon’s surface and waiting for their oxygen supply to diminish. This line of thinking also leads to President Obama’s desk, and the contingency speeches perhaps contained within. Have his words announcing nuclear war with Iran or North Korea already been penned? Has he rehearsed what he would say in the event of a coming alien invasion? Of the outbreak of a new plague? Of an impending failure of the national power grid?

Some Further Reading:

A site that looks at White House lost-in-space scenarios

A timeline of the Cold War space race

Links to many different presidential addresses

An article that explores one contemporary astronaut rescue plan

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