Despite careful planning, things can still go awry, emphasizing the importance of preparing for the worst.
In 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin made their groundbreaking lunar landing, NASA’s main worry was whether the lunar lander could effectively leave the moon’s surface and reunite with Michael Collins aboard the lunar orbiter.
Had the liftoff been unsuccessful, Armstrong and Aldrin would have faced a harrowing fate, stranded on the moon with the world watching.
To prepare for such a disaster, President Nixon’s speechwriter, William Safire, crafted a message for Nixon to deliver. The plan included contacting the astronauts’ spouses, severing communication with the moon, and having a clergy member recite a prayer akin to a burial at sea. Nixon would then address the nation via television.
Thankfully, the somber speech was never necessary. It remains uncertain whether Nixon was aware of its existence, but the astronauts discovered it during a 1999 interview commemorating the 30th anniversary of the moon landing.