The National Archives has released a digital version of former U.S. President Richard Nixon’s secret and unaired speech, which would have been used if NASA’s Apollo 11 Moon mission ended disastrously. In the speech, Nixon was prepared to honor astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin in case they died before returning to Earth.

Apollo 11, which is regarded as the first human mission to the Moon, was officially launched on July 16 at 1969. Aside from Armstrong and Aldrin, astronaut Michael Collins also joined the mission and piloted the command module Columbia. Collins remained in orbit aboard the spacecraft as Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Moon’s surface.

Nixon, who was the country’s president at that time, also made history by calling Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon from the White House.

The mission, of course, was a success and the astronauts returned safely to Earth. They were lauded as heroes for pioneering one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

Since the first human mission to the Moon was such an ambitious feat, NASA and the U.S. government were well aware of the risks involved in the expedition. In preparation for an unfavorable outcome, staff members of the White House drafted backup a speech for Nixon.

The speech, which was titled “In Event Of Moon Disaster,” was written on July 18, 1969 and focused on the bravery and sacrifice of the pilots. It was penned by presidential speechwriter William Lewis Safir and sent to former White House Chief of Staff Harry Robbins Halderman.

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

Interestingly, the speech only mentioned Armstrong and Aldrin as the astronauts who lost their lives during the mission. It is possible that the White House assumed that if something bad would happen during the mission, it would only affect the astronauts on the Moon and not Collins who was inside the command module.

Aside from the moving statements regarding the sacrifice of the astronauts, the speech also contained instructions for Nixon. Before reading the speech, he first had to contact Armstrong and Aldrin’s wives by telephone.

apollo 11 flag
Astronaut Aldrin posing with the American flag on the surface of the Moon in 1969. NASA