The Apollo XI mission in 1969, when Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the Moon, was a historic milestone and a great triumph of (american) technique.

At the time, however, there were so many doubts about the outcome that William Safire, a White House adviser, prepared a speech for President Nixon in case the adventure ended in tragedy.

Thirty years later, what would have been the president’s most tragic speech was revealed. It announced that the two astronauts could not return from the Moon. “They know that there is no hope of being rescued, but they also know that there is hope for humanity with their sacrifice” said the text that, thank God, never had to be read.

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