Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"The deepest of the deep"
November 5, 2010 2:10 PM   Subscribe

In event of moon disaster...
posted by Artw (70 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome post. I wonder if something similar was drafted for Jim Lovell's band of merry men.
posted by Biru at 2:14 PM on November 5, 2010


Double. (Plus something like seven comments about it.)
posted by entropicamericana at 2:14 PM on November 5, 2010


Yeah it was from five years ago. So what? I wasn't here five years ago, and even if I was, something cool like this is nice to be reminded about.
posted by Biru at 2:16 PM on November 5, 2010


In event of moon disaster...









Send it into space or some shit like that...









The music video for Andy Grammer's "Keep Your Head Up" lets you pick the way it unfolds...









while you watch.









Burma Shave!
posted by cog_nate at 2:16 PM on November 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Wow - that was surprisingly touch letter.

Thanks for posting.
posted by Pecinpah at 2:18 PM on November 5, 2010


cog_nate: what?
posted by killdevil at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2010


Maybe it's just time that's coloring my thinking, but they don't write presidential speeches like that any longer, it seems. There's something about the writing back then that seems more grand, more sweeping. Obama's stuff might come close, but even he has to dumb it down for our modern-day dullards.

We just don't send people to the moon anymore.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


[assumes the crash position]
posted by mazola at 2:23 PM on November 5, 2010


I wanted to post this today, but I figured lettersofnote has been getting a lot of play recently. But for christ's sake, that document is a time when speech writers knew how to write a fucking speech.

Don't give me that Toby and Sam bullshit.
posted by Think_Long at 2:25 PM on November 5, 2010


I've seen this before, but that doesn't detract from the letter. It's surprisingly lyrical given the circumstances in which it would have been delivered, but I suppose the message was one of hope as well as sadness.
posted by djgh at 2:25 PM on November 5, 2010


cog_nate, you just made my day.
posted by xedrik at 2:26 PM on November 5, 2010


Maybe it's just time that's coloring my thinking, but they don't write presidential speeches like that any longer, it seems. There's something about the writing back then that seems more grand, more sweeping

that document is a time when speech writers knew how to write a fucking speech.

Yeah, nowadays it seems to be mostly spin, shit hyperbole and talking points. The simplicity and directness of the letter really hit me.
posted by djgh at 2:26 PM on November 5, 2010


I may plagiarize this when my son's goldfish dies.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:27 PM on November 5, 2010 [22 favorites]


Come on... LA is dangerous and shit, but it's not like they've been shot in a drive-by while leaving the studio in Hollywood.
posted by qvantamon at 2:33 PM on November 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


would have been. grammar is hard.
posted by qvantamon at 2:35 PM on November 5, 2010


Neil and Buzz were cool, but Michael Collins always struck me as more amazing, for being willing to orbit the moon while others made the headlines and being ok with that. I think the NASA rotation would have made him the commander of Apollo 17 if he had stayed. Funny enough, he was originally slated to be on Apollo 8, but got bumped to 11. Had he stayed on 8, he would have been on Apollo 13 and you know how that went.
posted by nomadicink at 2:39 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


> who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace

That's some crappy parallelism.

It's not solemn or epic or stirring, it's a jingle.
posted by darth_tedious at 2:39 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh man, it was a touching presidential statement crafted in response to the possibility of the loss of the lunar module?

*waves hand dismissively*

Damn. When I read "In event of moon disaster..." I'm anticipating a cold war guidebook on what I should expect when those treacherous Russians finally launch the moon buster that rains down debris across the earth killing off nearly all life not living in giant underground Vaults. How we would one day emerge to fight the radioactive moon monsters those who survived on the surface had become.

I guess this is pretty good too, but you know... expectations and all.
posted by quin at 2:41 PM on November 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I have this image of Nixon reading the memo live on TV, wrapping up with "... another world that is forever mankind. Prior to the President's ... what ... OH GOD DAMMIT" and then a cut to this.
posted by penduluum at 2:45 PM on November 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


It's not solemn or epic or stirring, it's a jingle.

Nah, a jingle craftsman wouldn't rhyme a word with itself! A jingle would be more like "who went to the moon to explore in peace, only to have their vital functions cease."
posted by No-sword at 2:47 PM on November 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Man. I was hoping it was like, "My fellow Americans. Well we broke the moon in half. We done goofed bad and I'm really sorry about this."
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:47 PM on November 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


> Nah, a jingle craftsman wouldn't rhyme a word with itself!

Fair point.

Actually, the existing line has more of a punch-line rhythm.

"You think they went in peace? 'Went in peace'? More like, 'They're gonna rest in peace!'"
posted by darth_tedious at 2:56 PM on November 5, 2010


One of the most fascinating things in the rather excellent Armstrong biography, The First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, is a detail that I had never heard about - the Smithsonian lent Armstrong a piece of the original Wright Flyer's wooden prop, as well as a section of the muslin material from the wing, which Armstrong took down to the surface of the moon, and brought back. Brought tears to me eyes when I read it. Those guys had balls the size of asteroids.
posted by dbiedny at 3:01 PM on November 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


whats nixon gonna say
"I had nothing to do with it"
posted by clavdivs at 3:09 PM on November 5, 2010


You know, dying isn't as horrifying as the idea of getting stuck in some situation where you'd know you were going to die and couldn't do anything about it that's horrifying. I think that's why people are paranoid about flying.

I'm quite amazed that we didn't kill more people in the early days of the space program.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:16 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


kind of amazed that no one's said anything about the astronauts being in no real danger, since they were in Burbank the whole time.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:16 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Planet Earth is blue.....and there's nothing I can do...
posted by schmod at 3:17 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace

I can only hope they would have time to touch up the speech if it were actually needed. I'm guessing these worst-case-scenario-prediction speeches are as much second draft as finished product.

I like the idea of a whole horde of speech writers working on speeches for increasingly unlikely scenarios where things go pear shaped: only to sacrifice themselves to reveal Martian treachery and heat ray technology; made the utmost sacrifice in slaking the lust of the insatiable space Amazons; only to sink inexorably into its cheesy core.

But then I still chuckle every time I think about the Dana Carvey "Gerald Ford" sketch.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:21 PM on November 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Randomkeystrike: you mean like qvantamon's comment above?
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:23 PM on November 5, 2010


"You think they went in peace? 'Went in peace'? More like, 'They're gonna rest in peace!'"

Neil: "Buzz, don't do this, we came in the moon in peace..."

Buzz: "Yeah, Dmitri? Now you're going to rest in peace!"

(Buzz drops the moon match he just used to light his moon cigarette into the puddle of moon gas leaking from the moon car that Neil "Dmitri" Armstrongovich flipped during the car chase. Then Buzz walks away, in his moon trench coat, as the moon flames burn up moon oxygen and eventually reach the moon gas tank of the moon car.)

Neil: NYET!

(ASSPOLOSION!)
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:26 PM on November 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Neil and Buzz were cool, but Michael Collins always struck me as more amazing . . .

Some comic described him as being "the guy who got all the way to the moon, and then had to wait in the car."

I'm quite amazed that we didn't kill more people in the early days of the space program.

Especially since I now use about the same amount of computing power to dick around with my iPhone on the subway.

Although I learned about "the lost cosmonauts" as a canard and never had the chance to believe it, it's certainly truth-flavored.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:37 PM on November 5, 2010


"widows-to-be" is a pretty creepy descriptor.
posted by peep at 3:37 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


If I were one of them, I would have wanted to walk out on the surface, lie down (or prop myself against a boulder or whatever was possible in those suits), and look back at the Earth. Who would want to die in a dark tin spider while Tricky Dick reads Safire's crib of Rupert Brooke at voters?
posted by pracowity at 3:41 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, but is there a Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin whiskey?

I THOUGHT NOT.
posted by norm at 3:56 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't help but wonder... how long would they have lived, if the lunar lander failed? How much oxygen, water, food and power did they have?

The end of the memo talks about communications being cut off by NASA, presumably out of respect for the astronauts and their family. How long would they have kept communications open? What would be worse, hearing the astronaut's last moments, or leaving them alone, cut off from humanity like no one had ever been before? Especially when civilians would have been listening in anyway?

This is all very disturbing.
posted by MrVisible at 3:57 PM on November 5, 2010


What would be worse, hearing the astronaut's last moments, or leaving them alone, cut off from humanity like no one had ever been before?

I assume, since the instructions mention "commending their souls", that NASA would have waited until after the astronauts were dead before cutting off communication. Man, imagine being the guy whose job it is to keep talking to them to make sure they're still conscious, who has to listen to them die. I wonder if NASA would have broadcast the speech to them. I wonder what they would have talked about.
posted by fight or flight at 4:12 PM on November 5, 2010


It's a long, nerdy, rah-rah space! type of read but How We Developed the Apollo Lunar Module has some really good background on stuff like this as well sandwiched between the technical parts. The degree to which the astronauts helped design these vehicles was surmounted only by how closely they went over almost every inch. Pardon the pun, but they had a very good idea of what they were getting into.

It's definitely worth a read if you're into this type of stuff.
posted by cloax at 4:14 PM on November 5, 2010


What wonderful piece of Americana! This is why Letters of Note is so interesting. It's almost a museum-quality website, in my opinion.

As for the speech, it's a masterpiece. It makes it easy to imagine hearing the news, with your family, on a grainy TV. It makes it easy to imagine that you would cry.

I am also struck that god is not mentioned once. Not once. Mother Earth is invoked, but not god. I am young, no memories to refer to... was there an America I was born too late to experience that didn't enmesh god and religion into every single political event?
posted by gilrain at 4:15 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Dear Buzz:

Where were you? We waited and waited, but finally..."
posted by norm at 4:19 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


That is probably the most awesome speech that I am so very glad that no one ever had to use.
posted by sonika at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2010


I really, really hope Safire also did a version 'In the event of cheese...'
posted by iamkimiam at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really, really hope Safire also did a version 'In the event of cheese...'

Or maybe "In the event of Clangers."
posted by fight or flight at 4:46 PM on November 5, 2010


Man. I was hoping it was like, "My fellow Americans. Well we broke the moon in half. We done goofed bad and I'm really sorry about this."

Nixon, no. But I can hear Reagan saying this.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:04 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"You came here in THAT thing?! You're braver than I thought!"
posted by nomadicink at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Especially since I now use about the same amount of computing power to dick around with my iPhone on the subway.

Actually, you use, way, way, way more. The Apollo Guidance Computer ran at just over 2 MHz and had roughly 4 Kb of RAM, and weighed around 65 pounds. An iPhone 4 has a 1 GHz processor and 512 Mb of RAM, fits in your pocket, and weighs just under 140 grams.

Or to put it another way, what you have in your pocket is 500 times faster, has over 128,000 times as much memory, and is over 300 times lighter than what got the astronauts to the moon.

We live in the future, and it's pretty awesome.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:26 PM on November 5, 2010 [23 favorites]


In the event of a moon disaster… pow zoom, Alice. Pow zoom.
posted by klangklangston at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't give me that Toby and Sam bullshit.

This is a time for American heroes, and we reach for the stars? I think I WILL give you that Toby and Sam bullshit.



Or to put it another way, what you have in your pocket is 500 times faster, has over 128,000 times as much memory, and is over 300 times lighter than what got the astronauts to the moon.

Yet I'm sitting on my balcony with my iPhone and I can't even get a good signal let alone visit the moon. The future sucks.
posted by doublehappy at 5:45 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


That said, I love this post.
posted by doublehappy at 5:47 PM on November 5, 2010


It's fair to say that speeches aren't what they used to be -- but it's worth noting that speech subjects aren't what they used to be, either. Man going to the moon...yeah, anyone halfway eloquent ought to be able to wring a little Beowulf out of that. Economy in the toilet? Fighting for a health care plan that no one really understands that well and that gets reactions that range from uncomprehending anger to vague disappointment? This is not compelling subject matter. So, given what Safire had to work with here, I think this is much more understated than it really could have been; I admire the balance here between the lofty and the solemn, and the respectful absence of overblown sentiment. And I love this part:

"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."

Do we even have epic men anymore? Epic women, for that matter? We seem mostly to be engaged in the epic struggle not to spend the rest of our lives eating ramen, as we do our best not to contract any serious illness that we can't possibly afford to have treated.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:25 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Sooo... did anyone else wonder if it was a "how to deal with the lack of tides and the ensuing chaos when the nuclear waste dump on the moon goes *ka-pow* and our satellite goes hurtling off into outer space" or was that just me?
posted by Zack_Replica at 7:52 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


So on the one hand, the thought of knowing you're going to die on a cold airless rock hundreds of thousands of miles from everything you've ever known, with no hope of rescue and nothing left to do except decide when you want to swallow the pill / crack open your helmet is pretty horrifying. But on the other hand,

getting stuck in some situation where you'd know you were going to die and couldn't do anything about it.

in a sense describes the human condition in general. And as places to die go, well, you could do a whole lot worse than making it to the moon (the fucking moon, goddamn!) to do it.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:54 PM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Do we even have epic men anymore? Epic women, for that matter? We seem mostly to be engaged in the epic struggle not to spend the rest of our lives eating ramen, as we do our best not to contract any serious illness that we can't possibly afford to have treated.

This brings to mind this quote: "May you live in interesting times."
posted by WalterMitty at 7:55 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


DSKY> VERB 37 NOUN 12 ENTER
posted by Skorgu at 8:02 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't read anything about the moon without thinking of this guy.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:19 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Russians were there first, except they did the aeronautical equivalent of acting like they're throwing the stick and then walking away and leaving poor Laika to slowly die in space. Epic doggie.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:44 PM on November 5, 2010


Actually they more likely cooked her on the way up, if that's any consolation.

/salutes the people's socialist hero space doggie.
posted by Artw at 11:07 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to Safire himself, the communications links would have been cut well before they died, in order to "let the doomed astronauts starve to death or commit suicide."
posted by strangely stunted trees at 11:57 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


What exactly does "another world that is forever mankind" mean? Is it "mankind" now? Since we can't possibly get there anymore, I'm not entirely sure what distinguishes it from Pluto.
posted by falcon at 1:33 AM on November 6, 2010


Randomkeystrike: you mean like qvantamon's comment above?

Dammit! :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:42 AM on November 6, 2010


For those who are slightly too sensible to believe that the moon landings were theatre I propose a fractionally more plausible conspiracy: stand in, look-alikes for Buzz, Neil and Michael to be brought out of hiding as an alternative to this PR disaster for NASA.

...perhaps they walk among us still.
posted by rongorongo at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2010


What exactly does "another world that is forever mankind" mean? Is it "mankind" now? Since we can't possibly get there anymore, I'm not entirely sure what distinguishes it from Pluto.

"Some corner of another world..."

Safire's probably referring to the fact that there would be 2 bodies and a lunar lander there for a while.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:26 AM on November 6, 2010


It's also a reference to Rupert Brooke's poem The Soldier:
If I should die, think only this of me;
  That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England...
posted by Electric Dragon at 12:22 PM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Although when I saw "moon disaster", I have to admit I immediately thought it might involve Martin Landau.
posted by Electric Dragon at 12:26 PM on November 6, 2010


I wouldn't feel so bad for Michael Collins. After all he did have a song written about him.

Also disaster speeches are not unprecedented.

“Our landings have failed and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”

posted by Gungho at 5:55 AM on November 7, 2010


Now I'm wondering what Kennedy's speechwriters had cooked up if the Bay of Pigs invasion had succeeded:
Those who on instruction staged automatic "riots" in the streets of free nations over the efforts of a small group of young Cubans to regain their freedom should recall the long roll call of refugees who cannot now go back-to Hungary, to North Korea, to North Viet-Nam, to East Germany, or to Poland, or to any of the other lands from which a steady stream of refugees pours forth, in eloquent testimony to the cruel oppression now holding sway in their homeland.
posted by norm at 7:39 AM on November 7, 2010


Neil and Buzz were cool, but Michael Collins always struck me as more amazing, for being willing to orbit the moon while others made the headlines and being ok with that.

It's long been my opinion that Jim Lovell is the unluckiest lucky man ever. He was a Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo astronaut. He logged more hours in space than anyone else until people started staying up there in space stations. He was one of 3 people to get farthest from Earth. Just amazing, all the things he's done.

He went to the Moon twice and didn't get to walk on it either time.
posted by galadriel at 12:01 PM on November 7, 2010


Jim Lovell was not a Mercury astronaut.
posted by nomadicink at 12:06 PM on November 7, 2010


Whoops, no, you're right--he went up in Gemini twice. Sorry 'bout that.

Still. The man went to the Moon twice, twice! He went up there twice...and never managed to set foot on it. Man, oh man. How outrageously lucky and yet unlucky can you be, at the same time?
posted by galadriel at 1:21 PM on November 7, 2010


He came close to getting in Mercury though.

But yeah, going to the moon twice and not getting to set foot on = Goddamit.
posted by nomadicink at 1:32 PM on November 7, 2010


in a sense describes the human condition in general.

Point taken; maybe it's the idea of knowing when, and knowing it's gonna be real soon, that throws you into a panic... :-)
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:03 PM on November 11, 2010


« Older The music video for Andy Grammer's "Keep Your Head...  |  Husband-and-wife team Christop... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments