Rupert Brooke in Space

On Newsnight tonight, Benedict Cumberbatch read out an astonishing memo. It was written to Richard Nixon in 1969, at the time of the Apollo mission to the moon. William Safire had been asked to draft a speech for the President to make to the nation in preparation for the worst eventuality: that the astronauts, having made a landing, were unable to lift off again from the moon’s surface from the moon.

The speech strikes an appropriate note of elegiac dignity:

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edward Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

It moves towards a climactic ending that unashamedly appropriates one of Rupert Brooke’s greatest hits:

brooke in space

Click the image to see a larger version.

The whole speech can be read at:



  1. Posted March 31, 2015 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    This is so interesting! Thank you for sharing this with us. It is this bit of history (the behind-the-scenes, hope-the-best-prepare-for-the-worst) that I, as a historical fiction writer, enjoy and so would the readers at my blog, Historical Fiction Addicts ( you for sharing it 🙂

  2. Bill
    Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    When Ronald Reagan actually had to commemorate the Challenger space disaster, it was words from another Old Rugbeian, John Magee’s “High Flight” that he was given. I see from Wikipedia that Magee won the same school poetry prize as Brooke, with a sonnet on Brooke’s burial.

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