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:
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The whole speech can be read at: http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/events/centennials/nixon/images/exhibit/rn100-6-1-2.pdf