White House "Lost In Space" Scenarios

From Apollo to Discovery, President always prepared for the worst

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White House "Lost In Space" Scenarios

AUGUST 8--While we're hopeful that tomorrow's scheduled return of the Discovery space shuttle is a smooth one, TSG can't help but recall a couple of our favorite NASA-related memos, one which anticipated the demise of the Apollo XI astronauts.

Though the July 1969 mission proved a success, President Richard Nixon's aides devised a contingency plan in case astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (and their lunar module) were somehow stranded on the moon.

In a memo drafted two days before the Eagle landed, aide William Safire provided Nixon with a short speech to be delivered "In Event of Moon Disaster." After making condolence calls to the "widows-to-be," Nixon would have said, "Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace."

We've also included a second memo--prepared by NASA for the president and vice president--suggesting statements in the event of Apollo "crew fatalities." The presidential lamentation ended by noting that the dead men "have followed a star, in night of space, and we for whom they went will not forget." (4 pages)