Wednesday, 23 March 2011

There is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire
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.

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 the 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 the 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.

On 20th July 1969, the Apollo 11 lunar module touched down safely on the moon - with only about 25 seconds of fuel left in its tanks. The world was half a minute away from hearing these words, with their odd echo of Rupert Brooke, rather than 'one small step for man'.

The dangers of manned spaceflight were all too real; in 1967, astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in a cabin fire that engulfed the Apollo 1 command module during a ground test. In the same year, Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died when the parachute on the command module of his Soyuz 1 spaceship failed to open after re-entry, as recalled in these chilling words:

... an NSA analyst, identified in the book as Perry Fellwock, described overhearing Komarov tell ground control officials he knew he was about to die. Fellwock described how Soviet premier Alexei Kosygin called on a video phone to tell him he was a hero. Komarov's wife was also on the call to talk about what to say to their children. Kosygin was crying.

When the capsule began its descent and the parachutes failed to open, the book describes how American intelligence "picked up [Komarov's] cries of rage as he plunged to his death."


More than forty years later, the Soyuz spacecraft is still in use. When the shuttle is retired, later this year, the only way to get people to the International Space Station will be on board the tried, tested, improved descendant of the Soyuz  spacecraft that killed Komarov (and the crew of  Soyuz 11 in 1971).