President Richard Nixon gives an
President Richard Nixon gives an "OK" sign as he greets Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin in a quarantine van aboard the USS Hornet after splashdown and recovery in the Pacific Ocean. Picture: AP Photo

‘No hope’: Horror speech we never heard

We all know the famous line.

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," Neil Armstrong uttered after becoming the first person to set foot on the moon.

But just how would that day have gone 50 years ago, if on July 20, 1969, Armstrong had not successfully made those first steps at precisely 2.56:15am?

Those televised moments were watched around the globe, with the astronaut's immortal words heard by an estimated 650 million people.

It was President John F. Kennedy, on May 25, 1961, who issued NASA with a mission to send man to the moon, inevitably propelling scientific advancement and space discovery. But when the mission took place, President Richard Nixon was in power.

Nixon sat in his small hideaway office in the Executive Office Building next to the White House watching Armstrong and Aldrin take those first historic steps.

While he wasn't actually involved in much of the development of the mission - all of that was done before he took office - its achievement would be measured as a success of his presidency.

Watching those steps unfold, Nixon's tensions were high. If anything went wrong, he would be the one to manage America's outrage over the billions of taxpayer dollars spent culminating in the death of two astronauts.

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President Richard Nixon and Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin in the mobile quarantine facility aboard the USS Hornet ship after their successful moon landing mission. Picture: AP Photo
President Richard Nixon and Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin in the mobile quarantine facility aboard the USS Hornet ship after their successful moon landing mission. Picture: AP Photo

Thankfully, there would be no outrage, and instead, Nixon made what he called the most historic phone call ever made from the White House.

"Hello Neil and Buzz, I'm talking to you by telephone from the oval room at the White House," he told them.

"And this certainly has to be the most historic phone call ever made from the White House.

"I just can't tell you how proud we all are for what you have done. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives and for people all over the world.

"Because of what you have done the heavens have become a part of man's world."

The moment Nixon went live to the moon. Picture: CNN
The moment Nixon went live to the moon. Picture: CNN

But that day would have gone down very differently had the mission gone awry.

The speech for the "event of moon disaster" was at the ready, dated July 18, 1969.

"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace," the speech never made read.

"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."

READ MORE: Incredible form from 1969 shows Neil Armstrong had to go through customs after moon landing

The statement President Nixon would have read in the event of disaster. Picture: National Archives
The statement President Nixon would have read in the event of disaster. Picture: National Archives

 

The statement indicated Nixon would first have to call the astronauts’ wives. Picture: National Archives
The statement indicated Nixon would first have to call the astronauts’ wives. Picture: National Archives

Instead of calling the two astronauts on the moon, Nixon would first have to call each of the "widows-to-be" before making the dreaded speech.

"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," the speech would continue.

"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."

After the president's statement would be read, NASA would end communications with the men, and it was recommended a clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at

sea, commending their souls to "the deepest of the deep".

The burial would conclude with the Lord's Prayer.

Instead, Nixon was able to finish that historic call with the astronauts.

"As you talk to us from the Sea of Tranquillity, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquillity to earth," he told them.

 


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