To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire
July 18, 1969.
IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:
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.
102:45:58 Armstrong (onboard): Engine arm is off. (Pause) (Now on voice-activated comm) Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.
102:46:06 Duke: (Momentarily tongue-tied) Roger, Twan...(correcting himself) Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.
"Typically in the LLTV it wasn't unusual to land with fifteen seconds left of fuel-we did it all the time. It looked to me like everything was manageable. It would have been nice if I'd had another minute of fuel to fiddle around a little bit longer. I knew we were getting short; I knew we had to get it on then ground, and I knew we had to get it below fifty feet. But I wasn't panic stricken about the fuel"
"I don't know if there's any way to know how much fuel was left. The fuel tank bottom was spherical, and it's very difficul to have any kind of a quantity measuring system in the bottom of a spherical surface. It's very difficult to know how much was in there, particularly if the fluid in there was wandering around. The port was supposed to tell us at typical thrust settings when we would have about thirty seconds of fuel left. I don't know how accurate that was; if there was sloshing, you wouldn't know whether that light went on too early or too late.
"The important thing was that we were close enough to the surface that it didn't really matter. we wouldn't have lost our attitude control if we had run out of fuel. The engine would have quit but, from the distance we were at, we would have settled to the ground safely enough."
"I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector nerdy engineer. And I take substantial pride in the accomplishments of my profession."
-From the February 2000 address to the National Press Club honoring the Top 20 Engineering Achievements of the Twentieth Century.
Nothing the United States has ever done, and likely will ever do, will be as important to all of mankind as putting a man on the surface of The Moon. That Armstrong did it without ever reaching for celebrity or the easy path to riches, that he never cheapened what was done by Man should make honoring him more important.
For at least a time, there literally was only one other person in the history of man who knew what Armstrong knew — how that sandy soil feels when you walk on it, the exact places where the shadows fall, the precise geometry of the mountains of the moon. Today, there are only eight of them left, all of them in their 70's. What will happen when the last of them dies? It's very likely that there will not be a living human being who knows what Neil Armstrong knew. It will all be for videotape and digital libraries, for historians and, if we're very lucky, for poets, as well. But there will be nobody alive who actually knows. Not a single one of our fellow humans, anywhere on the Earth. That knowledge will be as dead in the world as Columbus is. One fewer person on the Earth was able to look up at the moon on Sunday night. What he thought when he looked at, night after night, is a perspective lost to all but eight old men. Sooner or later, there will be none of them left. On that day, like today, we should mourn for what we once thought we were. From that day forward, I fear, it is all going to sound like myth and magic, and the tales that the old men told around the ancient fires.
In “First Man: The Life of Neil Armstrong,” James R. Hansen wrote that in Mr. Armstrong’s first year at Purdue, Charles E. Yeager broke the sound barrier in the rocket-powered Bell X-1. It was exciting but bittersweet for the young student. He thought aviation history had already passed him by.
“All in all, for someone who was immersed in, fascinated by, and dedicated to flight,” Mr. Armstrong told his biographer, “I was disappointed by the wrinkle in history that had brought me along one generation late. I had missed all the great times and adventures in flight.”
He gave a detailed answer about the hypergolic fuel mixing system for the lunar module. Rather than an ignition system, they had two substances that would ignite upon contact. Instead of an electric pump, he wished he had a big simple lever to mechanically initiate mixing.
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