1969 | Washington, DC

Plan B

The dark side of going to the moon.

To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire

IN THE EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:

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 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 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.

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.

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.

PRIOR TO THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT: 

The president should telephone each of the widows-to-be.

AFTER THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT, at the point when NASA ends communications with the men:

A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to “the deepest of the deep,” concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

Contributor

William Safire

From a memo. As one of Richard Nixon’s speechwriters, Safire at the age of thirty-nine completed this statement on July 18, to be read by the president if the astronauts got stranded in space. Apollo 11 landed on the moon two days later, and Neil Armstrong made his one small step while more than 800 million members of mankind watched on TV. Safire’s New York Times “Essay” column earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1978. He died at the age of seventy-nine in 2009.