The astronauts of Apollo 11 made history on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin became the first men to step foot on the moon.
About 600 million people tuned in to watch the historic event and the fufillment of a promise President Kennedy made in 1961: to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
The team at NASA successfully launched a crew nearly 250,000 miles away to an environment with no water or oxygen. As the world cheered, the astronauts knew that this was only half their mission.
NASA/ Wiki Commonss
Despite the brilliant minds at NASA working tirelessly for a successful mission, there was still a 0.1 percent chance that something could go wrong. Little did we know that President Nixon and NASA had a contingency plan that did not involve rescue.
If the ascent engine failed, Command Module Pilot, Michael Collins would return to earth alone in the Columbia, leaving Aldrin and Armstrong on the moon to die.
If anyone else know that this was their plan, there would have been outrage! A second speech was written in the event that the worst should happen. The president would have notified the astronauts' families and then addressed the world by live broadcast.
Nixon's former speech writer, William Safire, told NBC's Meet the Press about a memo he sent to the President's Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman titled "In The Event of Moon Disaster"
Nixon speaks with Apollo 11 after lunar landing
Read his chilling words below:
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.
Thankfully, all three astronauts made it home safely on July 24 when Columbia splashed into the Pacific Ocean. They were placed in quarantine for about 3 weeks after their mission and found to have a clean bill of health!
Apollo 11 Astronauts having a laugh with President Nixon.history.com
Who knows, maybe one day, we'll send another team to the moon - or beyond! Did you know about Nixon's second speech?
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