1484: Apollo Speeches
Title text: While our commitment to recycling initiatives has been unwavering, this is not a cost any of us should be expected to pay.
As explained in the comic, Nixon staffer William Safire wrote two speeches for the United States President to deliver, depending on whether or not the Apollo 11 return launch was successful. When the outcome of an event (moon landing, military actions, etc.) can't be predicted with sufficient certainty, it is a common practice for "contingency speeches" to be prepared.
The rest of the comic runs with this theme, making the false claim that Safire had written several other such contingency speeches for increasingly unlikely possibilities. First listed are a couple pages from the real contingency speech to be delivered in the event that the astronauts were left stranded on the Moon. Lying on top of that is a speech to be delivered in the case that the spacecraft went missing altogether, which was relatively unlikely. The speeches after that deal with the following highly unlikely or impossible contingencies:
- The astronauts had stolen the ship and piloted it towards Mars, which was clearly not feasible
While the crew could have redirected the ship while sending insulting messages to Earth, the spacecraft lacked the power to fly to Mars within any reasonable period of time by several orders of magnitude or the supplies for the astronauts to survive such an extended trip. At the time of production for this strip in 2015, several governments and private companies have designs on Martian colonization.
- More astronauts than expected were found in the recovered ship
The appearance of three additional astronauts ventures into the realm of possibility normally reserved for science fiction and Twilight Zone episodes.
- The ship had hit the U.S.S. Hornet and crushed Nixon
The USS Hornet was the ship that recovered the Apollo 11 astronauts after they completed their return mission by landing their command module in the Pacific Ocean; President Nixon himself was on board to greet them upon their return. Apollo 11 famously landed in the Pacific Ocean, and the single ship tasked with its recovery would be a very small target to hit for the technology even if that had been the intent, which it was of course not. Spiro Agnew was, in 1969, Vice President of the United States, and thus next in line for the presidency. This joke plays off the extreme improbability of the ship, and indeed President, being hit and triggering a succession, causing "President Agnew" to address the world.
This is not as implausible as it sounds. The re-entry guidance had become good enough by Apollo 11 that the destination point of the capsule was moved several hundred yards from the carrier's position for exactly this reason. Such a collision had been the subject of jokes at NASA, until one day an engineer came to Gene Kranz and said, "the more I think about it, the less I think it is a joke."
- The re-entry craft had been sold for scrap and crushed along with the astronauts inside
Apollo 11 observed a strict quarantine procedure after landing. This possibility requires extraordinary incompetence and unholy zeal for recycling programs. The command module was historically recovered, examined, and is now on permanent display in the National Air and Space Museum. Primary sources state that the astronauts were allowed to leave the craft before it was put on display.
The title text builds upon this last contingency speech, delving into the pathos of the horror of the spacecraft's recycling and its passengers' resulting deaths despite the U.S.'s commitment to recycling initiatives.
- [Commentary above the speeches.]
- In 1969, Nixon staffer William Safire wrote a speech for the president to deliver if the Apollo 11 return launch failed, stranding the doomed astronauts on the Moon.
- Uncovered in 1999, it is often called the greatest speech never given.
- Today, the full set of Safire's contingency speeches has been found.
- In event astronauts stranded on Moon
- Fate has ordained that the men who went to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace.
- [Here, several lines from the original speech are cut.]
- In ancient days, men looked at 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
- In event spacecraft goes missing
- Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins went to the Moon as ambassadors of peace for all mankind, and all mankind prays that they may yet return safely home.
- We are separated from the Moon by a vast gulf of space, against which their tiny vessel appeared as but a drifting speck. For a few brief seconds, we took our eye off them, and despite days of desperate searching, never again was their vessel sighted from Earth.
- While these men are lost, they are not forgotten, and their sacrifice will not
- In event astronauts abscond with spacecraft
- We do not know what led Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins to betray the trust we placed in them, abandon their mission, and steer their vessel toward Mars. Nor do we know what compelled them to transmit such hurtful messages back to Earth, heaping contempt on their onetime home.
- But whatever the cause of their dereliction, I call upon the United States to commit itself, before this year is out, to launching a mission to chase down Apollo 11 and return its crew to earth to face justice. We must not rest until
- In event spacecraft returns with extra astronauts
- While there is much we do not understand, tonight all of earth is united in celebrating the safe return of our brave explorers.
- We of course have many questions, and in the days and weeks to come we will demand answers. How many souls were truly aboard Apollo 11 when it launched? Who are the six men now in quarantine aboard the USS Hornet? What happened
- In event spacecraft hits U.S.S. Hornet, crushing Nixon
- President Agnew: Tonight, we have experienced a great national triumph and a great national loss. We take joy in the safe return from the Moon of Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins, but that joy is tempered with sorrow as we mourn our president’s tragic death beneath their wayward capsule.
- Richard Nixon wholeheartedly supported our courageous astronauts as they carried the hopes and prayers of Earth to the heavens, and in the moment of their homecoming, he himself has departed on that ultimate voyage. As we grieve, we must rededicate ourselves to the cause for which our president
- In event spacecraft accidentally sold for scrap and crushed with astronauts inside
- My fellow Americans, I am as shocked and appalled as you at this stunning and
- Shortly after this comic was released, in that week's What if?, those speeches are referenced with a link to this comic. (see Black Hole Moon).
- This comic was referenced again in another What If?, Stop Jupiter.
- In 1510: Napoleon the contingency speech is referenced in the title text but in reverse, as the idea is to actually strand Napoleon on the Moon.
- In 1291: Shoot for the Moon the subject of the title text is what happens if you instead miss the Moon with your space craft and get stranded in space in orbit around the Sun.
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