(ORDO NEWS) — 51 years later, from the moment people first visited the moon, previously unknown information leaked to the press. It turned out that if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin failed to return from the surface of the Earth’s satellite, the Apollo mission would be immediately terminated, and the astronauts would be left to die on the moon.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy announced a mission to the moon. This was, in his words, “a new frontier.” The conversation about boundaries was a throwback to the nineteenth century, but it made a certain sense. The prospect of claiming the Moon (vast, uninhabited, strategically useful and rich in minerals) was exactly what was needed in order to designate itself as the conquerors of space.
NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the lunar surface 51 years ago, on July 20, 1969. Behind him, 19 minutes later, was followed by the co-pilot – Buzz Aldrin. Taking his first steps on the lunar surface, Armstrong uttered the immortal phrase “this is one small step for man, but a giant leap for all mankind.” After Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins returned to Earth, all three were awarded the title of heroes.
The mission was hailed as a huge success – but things could have turned out very differently. In his book Jump to the Moon, author Jim Donovan described how NASA prepared for the worst-case scenario for an important mission to the moon.
“I found that the moon landing was even more dangerous than anyone on the mission. When the primitive Apollo Guidance Computer for our time (with only 72 KB of memory and processing speed millions of times slower than today’s average smartphone) began to emit alarms at an altitude of 40,000 feet, it took incredible skill for controllers not to interrupt the whole mission.”
There were 18 different plans in case something went wrong – one of them is really terrible. Collins, who was in charge of an orbital module that had already gone awry, had a procedure at his disposal that indicated that Armstrong and Aldrin would have to be left on the moon.
The astronaut already had a notebook on hand, describing all 18 emergency procedures, which were attached to the front of the spacesuit. Collins himself later wrote: “Such opportunities give rise to nightmares,” he “sweated like a nervous bride” while waiting for a communication session from Armstrong and Aldrin.
NASA was well aware of the risk of disaster and made President Richard Nixon’s speechwriter, William Safir, prepare the words to be spoken in the event of a tragic event. Here’s how they would sound: “Fate decreed that people who went to the moon to explore this world will stay on the moon in order to rest in peace there.”
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