To celebrate the 42nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, I’m breaking my own rule and publishing something that isn’t about science fiction. It turned out, fortunately, to be science fiction, but when it was written its factuality was unknown. I’m referring to the beautiful, chilling speech written for President Nixon in the event the astronauts became stranded on the Moon. To be delivered to the nation while the astronauts were still alive and awaiting death by suffocation, they would have listened to a long range transmission of the President delivering this, their eulogy, from another planet, while their lives and final hours were helplessly mourned from a quarter of a million miles away.
To put this into perspective, you need to understand that it was considered so likely that the astronauts wouldn’t return that a euphemism for how it would be handled was created. Having exhausted all options and determined that lift off was impossible, the stranded astronauts would “close down communications” with Mission Control in Houston and be left in silence, either to die slowly or, if they chose, to commit suicide. At no place is the inevitability of their deaths so hauntingly real as when the document details the President’s instructions for contacting the “widows-to-be.” Yet, despite the gravest of peril and the nearly infinite unknowns they faced, in the name of science and exploration, on behalf of all mankind these men lined up for the chance to risk being stranded on a cold, dead world beyond all hope of rescue. Just to see what we as a species could learn and achieve.
This is science. This is exploration. This is our shared American history. This is everything we, as human beings, can look to within ourselves when we need to know, to feel, to truly understand the definitions of ‘pride’ and ‘ dedication’ and ‘accomplishment.’ This article is a meager tribute; I’m not sure it’s possible for my small words, tucked away here in our little corner of the internet, to convey the thanks and admiration I feel for the brave men and women who have toiled, struggled, suffered and died to turn the science fiction I read into the science fact that every human being, in every corner of this Earth, now lives and shares. They have literally changed the way every human being will understand and live on this planet, forever. It’s humbling. All I can do is to extend, on behalf of myself and the rest of The Sci-Fi Guys, my deepest, most sincere gratitude for all their efforts and sacrifices. Thank you, all of you, for everything.