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Nixon Calls Apollo 11 Astronauts

Nixon Calls Apollo 11 Astronauts


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In what he described as the most historic phone call ever made from the White House, President Richard Nixon speaks to astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin shortly after they became the first humans to set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969.


Mobile quarantine facility

The mobile quarantine facility (MQF) was a converted Airstream trailer used by NASA to quarantine astronauts returning from Apollo lunar missions for the first few days after splashdown. The MQF was on the aircraft carrier that picked up the capsule. Once the aircraft carrier reached port, the MQF was flown to Houston, and the crew served the remainder of the 21 days of quarantine in the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Manned Spacecraft Center. The purpose of the quarantine was to prevent the spread of any contagions from the Moon, though the existence of such contagions was considered unlikely. It functioned by maintaining a lower pressure inside and filtering any air vented. [1]

In June of 1967, NASA awarded contract to design and build the four MQF's to Melpar, Inc., of Falls Church, Virginia. Lawrence K. Eliason was the head project manager.

The MQF contained living and sleeping facilities as well as communications equipment which the astronauts used to converse with their families. The Apollo 11 crew also used this equipment to speak with President Nixon, who personally welcomed them back to Earth in July 1969 aboard the recovery ship USS Hornet after splashdown.

The trailers housed the three crew as well as a physician and an engineer who ran the MQF and powered down the command module.

Four MQFs were built for NASA:

Mission Designation Disposition
Apollo 11 MQF003 Formerly on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Currently on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. [2]
Apollo 12 MQF002 Converted for various purposes and found near Marion, Alabama. Currently on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. [3]
Apollo 13 MQF001 Not used for the crew because they did not land on the Moon. For some time the USDA used it. Its present disposition is unknown. [2]
Apollo 14 MQF004 On display at the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California. [4]

The quarantine requirement was eliminated following Apollo 14 once it was proven the Moon was sterile and that the facilities were therefore unnecessary. [5]


Nixon's Space Legacy Unveiled at National Archives

The telephone that was used to place the historic first Earth-to-moon long distance call is now on public display at the National Archives, along with other spaceflight artifacts related to Richard Nixon's presidency.

"Nixon and the U.S. Space Program" opened on Monday (Jan. 7) within the "Public Vaults" exhibit in the National Archives Building in Washington. The archivist of the United States David Ferriero and Jim Gardner, executive of legislative archives, presidential libraries, and museum services, oversaw a ribbon cutting for the mini-exhibit.

The display, which was organized in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard M. Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, features rarely seen documents, photos, and objects that represent milestones in human spaceflight that took place during Nixon's time in the White House, from 1969 through 1974. [U.S. Presidents’ Space Visions through History]

Most historic telephone call ever

Although it was President John F. Kennedy who set the nation on the course to the moon, it was Nixon who was in office during the first manned lunar landing that fulfilled JFK's challenge. On the evening of July 20, 1969, shortly before midnight (EST), Nixon picked up the receiver of the olive green phone in the Oval Office and called the moon.

"This certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made," Nixon told Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as they stood at Tranquility Base. "For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives. And for people all over the world, I am sure they too join with Americans in recognizing what an immense feat this is."

"For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one: one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth," Nixon said.

"It's a great honor and privilege for us to be here," Armstrong replied over his radio headset. "It's an honor for us to be able to participate here today."

In event of moon disaster

The telephone Nixon used to congratulate Armstrong and Aldrin is exhibited alongside the text of a speech he would have delivered had the lunar landing not been successful. The contingency statement, which was drafted by William Safire, was in case the Apollo 11 moonwalkers were killed or left to die on the 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," reads the draft speech. "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 mankind."

The speech, which went unused, was revealed 30 years after Apollo 11 had returned safely to Earth. Nixon greeted Armstrong, Aldrin and their command module pilot Michael Collins on board the USS Hornet aircraft carrier after their safe splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.

Five more crews landed safely on the lunar surface in the three years that followed Apollo 11. A pair of tongs used by Apollo 12 astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean to collect moon rocks is also part of the "Nixon and the U.S. Space Program" exhibit.

Nixon and the U.S. space program

Under his presidency, Nixon saw an end to NASA's Apollo moon program in 1972 and the early development of the space shuttle. Nixon was also in office for the launch of Skylab, the United States' first space station, and its three crewed missions from 1973 to early 1974. Nixon resigned in August 1974, rather than face his impeachment for his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

"Nixon and the U.S. Space Program" will be on exhibit at the National Archives through June 2013, when the small display will be changed to feature artifacts and documents from the administration of President Gerald Ford.

The materials now on exhibit are on loan from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, Calif., one of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives.


Moon Landings at the Nixon Library

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts highlighting our “Archives Across America.” Today’s post comes from staff at the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California.

On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the Moon. This triumph instilled patriotism and curiosity within the American people as they watched the events unfold on their televisions.

Now, almost 50 years later, researchers and museum patrons alike can relive this monumental moment in American history at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

Even those who are not old enough to remember the Apollo 11 mission are intrigued by the moon rock, the “most historic telephone call ever made,” the Safire “In Event of Moon Disaster” memo, and the legacy of the Apollo program.

In a truly unique Presidency defined by such events as the end of the Vietnam War, the opening of China, Watergate, and the first and only resignation by an American President, the Moon landing continues to draw significant interest from the public and sets apart the Nixon Library experience.

Richard Nixon’s history with the space program extends back to his time as Vice President. As Vice President, Nixon was a strong supporter of outer-space exploration. He believed achievements in space would not only provide advancements in the sciences, but would also foster pride among Americans and deliver a strategic Cold War victory.

With the ultimate success of the Apollo 11 mission, Nixon not only put these words into action, but also fulfilled the promise of President John F. Kennedy, who famously pledged to the American people in 1961 that a man would reach the moon by the end of the decade.

In fact, all six lunar touchdowns, beginning with Apollo 11 and culminating with Apollo 17 in 1972, occurred during the Nixon Presidency—this makes Richard Nixon the only President to witness a Moon landing during his time in the White House.

Visitors to the Nixon Library and Museum are able to encounter the lunar landings through photographs, artifacts, and audio recordings. After being welcomed to the exhibit by two life-size replicas of astronauts standing on the Moon, guests are able to listen to the conversation between President Nixon and the Apollo 11 astronauts that Nixon dubbed “the most historic telephone call ever made.”

The telephone used by President Nixon to place that call from the Oval Office is on display. Also available are meals carried aboard the space shuttles, as well as a moon rock collected during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971.

The Archives department maintains all Moon landing documents within its holdings. This includes telegrams sent by President Nixon to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the eve of their launch, which detailed his personal pride in them and the excitement of the American population.

Another interesting piece is the handwritten draft of remarks President Nixon planned to deliver to the Apollo 11 crew following their return. The outline, titled “A Week that Changed the World,” was drafted by the President while en route to the USS Arlington on July 23, 1969. He gave his remarks the next day aboard the USS Hornet, where the astronauts were quarantined following their July 24 splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

Last, the Nixon Library holds items relevant to the famous Apollo 13 mission, including handwritten notes for the President’s call to the astronauts’ wives on April 17, 1970, and for his speech at the Medal of Freedom ceremony the next day.

His telephone conversation was to conclude with the line that “this is a bigger day than when I was elected.” The Medal of Freedom ceremony was held after the astronauts’ safe return to Earth following an explosion on board the spacecraft and the dramatic series of event that ensued.

The Moon landings are a common subject for reference requests and research topics. Since 2004, approximately 110 reference questions from the public have been received and answered by the Nixon Archives department.

Nearly a quarter of the textual requests have concerned the infamous Safire memo. This memo, prepared by Nixon speechwriter William Safire for Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman, included the suggested text for a speech President Nixon would give should the Apollo 11 mission fail and the astronauts not return. Although the speech never had to be delivered, it remains a source of curiosity to this day.

Among the many memorable events that characterize the Nixon Presidency, the Apollo program lunar landings continue to inspire fascination among the Nixon Library and Museum’s visitors and provide a steady stream of research assistance opportunities for the staff.

The interactive experience of the Moon landing exhibit immerses visitors in this era and offers a rare chance to view artifacts directly associated with these accomplishments. Researchers can examine the key documents relating to these missions and view President Nixon’s own handwritten thoughts concerning Apollo 11 and 13 in particular.

The lunar landings are one of the many aspects of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum that make it unique in all the NARA Presidential Libraries.

Visit the National Archives American Archives Month web page for more information about our events and activities throughout the month.

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Here’s The Speech Nixon Prepared In Case The Apollo 11 Astronauts Were Trapped On The Moon.

Successfully sending a crew nearly 250,000 miles away to an environment with no oxygen was cause for celebration, but that was only half of the mission.

On July 20, 1969, the astronauts of Apollo 11 made history, when Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon. An estimated 600 million people tuned into to watch the landmark event, and for good reason this was the culmination of years of planning, and the fulfillment of a promise President Kennedy made in 1961 (to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade). Successfully sending a crew nearly 250,000 miles away to an environment with no oxygen was cause for celebration, but that was only half of the mission.

The astronauts had to return home safely which was no small task, despite the brilliant minds NASA had working on the mission. In fact, in the .1 percent chance that something bad happened, NASA and President Nixon had a contingency plan ready that did not involve rescue. If the ascent engine failed (the engine responsible for getting the crew back off the moon) Command Module Pilot Michael Collins was to return to earth alone in the Columbia, leaving Aldrin and Armstrong marooned on the moon. President Nixon would then notify the astronauts’ families, and then address the world publicly via a live broadcast. He even had the speech prepared in case such an event were to occur.

In an episode of NBC’s Meet The Press from 1999, Nixon’s former speech writer William Safire told Tim Russert about the memo he sent to President Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, titled “In The Event of Moon Disaster.” The text, in full, is below:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

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

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends they will be mourned by their nation they will be mourned by the people of the world they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

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 mankind.

Thankfully, the speech was never required, and the Apollo 11 crew returned home safely on July 24, when the Columbia splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. They were placed in quarantine for nearly three weeks following the mission, but ultimately returned with a clean bill of health, and to the admiration of a nation.

This speech is a great reminder, however, of just how dangerous this mission was, and how far we’ve come since then. Looking for more fascinating history you might not have learned about in school? Check out this story about 1816: The Year Without a Summer That Changed The World.


Nixon Had a Speech Prepared In Case the Apollo 11 Astronauts Were Stranded in Space

When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, they made history. But one thing that didn’t make history that day was the backup speech that President Nixon was slated to give in the event that something went wrong on the mission and the astronauts were stranded 238,900 miles from earth.

Written by presidential speechwriter William Safire and not revealed until 1999, the speech was planned in case the astronauts had to be abandoned. In that scenario, according to Safire in a July 18, 1999 Meet The Press interview, “then they would have to be abandoned on the moon. Left to die there, And mission control would have to, to use their euphemism, close down communication. And the men would either starve to death or commit suicide. And so we prepared for that with a speech that I wrote and the president was ready to give that.”

Below is the full text of the speech that Nixon never gave.

To : H. R. Haldeman
From : Bill Safire
July 18, 1969.

IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends they will be mourned by their nation they will be mourned by the people of the world they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

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 mankind.

PRIOR TO THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT:
The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be.

AFTER THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT, AT THE POINT WHEN NASA ENDS COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE MEN:
A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to “the deepest of the deep,” concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.


A Fateful Call

Traveling through space is inherently dangerous , and any number of problems could have doomed the mission, from the launch pad to the landing. But while NASA had sent astronauts right up to the moon , Apollo 11 would be the first time humans actually set foot on another world, and it would be the first time they tried to get off it. Should the lunar module experience any problems trying to leave the surface, that would be the end of Armstrong and Aldrin. No rescue would be coming.

It’s a grim thought, and a hard one to entertain today. Apparently, it was so even at the time. “Americans had become accustomed to happy endings on space flights, and so had I,” wrote Nixon speechwriter William Safire in his autobiography Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House . Despite occasional failures — most notably the Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts — NASA’s efforts had been remarkably successful. It took a call from Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman to convince Safire of the mission’s real dangers. From his book:

“But on June 13, Frank Borman — an astronaut the President liked and whom NASA had assigned to be our liaison — called me to say, “You want to be thinking of some alternative posture for the President in the event of mishaps on Apollo XI.” When I didn’t react promptly, Borman moved off the formal language: “—like what to do for the widows.” The potential for tragedy was underscored by the nature of the failure that was most possible: inability to get the moon vehicle up off the moon. … Disaster would not come in the form of a sudden explosion — it would mean the men would be stranded on the moon.

As a result, Safire wrote a speech for Nixon to read “In Event of Moon Disaster,” as he titled the memo. He never officially submitted it, and when the mission proved victorious he quietly tucked it away into the record, as the National Archives puts it. But in 1999, 30 years after the landing, Safire discussed the almost speech on NBC’s Meet The Press , bringing it to the attention of many for the first time. (Tim Russert also took the opportunity to tweak Safire — a columnist at the New York Times who often wrote on language — for making a grammatical error on the plaque Apollo 11 left on the moon .)

Below is the full text of that speech, which sets the tone with the very first line. (The last line is likely a reference to Rupert Brooke’s poem The Soldier, also a tribute to the fallen.) Safire specified that the speech should only come after the astronauts’ widows were informed, and it would be followed by a clergyman “commending their souls,” as in a burial at sea.


AT&T Tech Channel

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men on the moon when they landed in the Sea of Tranquility. During their initial 21-hour foray onto the lunar surface, they received a telephone call from President Nixon. This is historic footage of that interaction. (The call was made around midnight, so some reports list the call as happening on July 21.) Nixon himself considered it the most important call he had made during his time in office, even more specifically, "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House."

So how was the call made? How do you call the moon? Simply, the call went from the Oval Office in Washington D.C. to Houston, where it was routed into space via Mission Control, through the capsule communicator, or CapCom, astronaut Bruce McCandless II. On the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, audio of this interaction, and, in fact, audio of the entire mission was made widely available.

When the Apollo 11 astronauts returned to Earth, they were greeted by Nixon himself on the U.S.S. Hornet, the vessel which picked up the recovery spacecraft.

The Bell System was involved with the American space program through the subsidiary that worked with NASA, BellComm. BellComm was formed in 1962 to supply technical and project management advice for the manned space flight program. That relationship evolved to include engineering, communications and analysis. BellComm was dissolved in 1972. For more information, see the film about BellComm, What If?.

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ


White House Aides Remember President Nixon’s Phone Call to the Moon

YORBA LINDA – President Nixon not only viewed America’s moon shot as a Cold War victory, but a symbol of national unity and a global gesture of peace explained top Nixon White House aides in a discussion at the Nixon Presidential Library about their eyewitness account of the 37th president’s Oval Office phone call to the Apollo 11 astronauts.

The program was part of “Earth to Moon” the Library’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the moon landing, presented by AT&T on Saturday, July 20.

Participants included Dwight Chapin, appointments secretary to the president Larry Higby, assistant to chief-of-staff H.R. Haldeman John Price, executive secretary to Urban Affairs Council head Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Alex Eisenhower, the grandson of President Nixon and son of David and Julie Eisenhower. Nixon Foundation President and CEO Hugh Hewitt moderated the program, which was introduced by Rhonda Johnson, CEO of AT&T California.

Johnson discussed AT&T’s role in setting up the historic phone call. She explained how 100 years ago Alexander Graham Bell made the first intercontinental phone call over 3,000 miles. Fifty years later President Nixon made a phone call 240,000 miles through the solar system.

The panelists talked the political context of the space race, and the events in the White House during that historical day. Hewitt put the discussion to a hard stop at 8:48pm (PT), and queued up President Nixon’s phone call to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in real time, 50 years to the minute.

The space race began in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched their first satellite Sputnik in October that year.

“It was a slap in the face to American complacency,” explained Price, a graduate of Grinnell College in central Iowa.

One evening, shortly after the launch, Price ventured out with a friend to a corn field and gazed at the satellite with a naked eye.

Awed by his experience, he phoned to tell his grandmother, the wife of an Iowa dairy farmer.

“Not possible,” she said. “God wouldn’t allow it.”

Chapin said that it was President Kennedy who united America behind the common goal of winning the space race.

“President Nixon was behind it one thousand percent,” Chapin said of Kennedy’s long time political rival. “He thought Kennedy made the right decision.”

The space program had always been considered for the chopping block in favor of more immediate domestic political considerations. By the mid-1960s, it had peaked to over four percent of the total federal budget.

Chapin further explained, in that year then candidate Nixon contested budget cuts to the space program, calling its funding a national imperative if America was to stay competitive with the Soviet Union.

Nixon also saw the space program as a way to bolster the national spirit. Case in point was President Nixon’s inaugural address, six months to the day before the moon landing on January 20, 1969.

By the time Nixon took office, the nation was deeply divided along racial, cultural and generational lines. The Vietnam War was at its height. In 1968, there were 125 urban riots across the country which resulted in hundreds of casualties, and millions of dollars in property damage.

Nixon used the imagery of man’s rendezvous with space as a way to communicate the idea of national unity.

“Only a short few weeks ago, we shared the glory of man’s first sight of the world as God sees it, as a single sphere reflecting light in the darkness,” Nixon said, recalling the Apollo 8 mission on Christmas Eve 1968.

Reciting Archibald MacLeish’s inspired poem, Nixon said that to see the Earth in its silence where it floats, “is to see ourselves as riders on the earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers.”

“Nixon had an uncanny sense of timing,” Higby explained. “He invoked the moon more than once in this regard.”

Nixon forged a friendship with Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman, who would become the president’s chief advisor and liaison to the space program.

Borman was the only person to watch the launch with President Nixon. During a special church service on the day of the moon landing officiated by a quaker minister from his alma mater Whittier College, Nixon asked Borman to read from Genesis, just as he did on an international broadcast during the Apollo 8 mission.

John Price was the only one of the panelists at the launch in Cape Kennedy on July 16. Vice President Agnew represented President Nixon. The President also arranged for Air Force 1 to carry former President Lyndon Johnson — a staunch supporter of the space program — to Florida.

Price flew with the vice president’s delegation. He was seated next to Jean Sainteny, a former Gaullist cabinet minister, on Air Force 2. Sainteny had been invited on the basis of his position as director of Air France.

This would later prove to be a cover. The real reason for Sainteny’s visit, Price explained, was to act as an intermediary between the president and North Vietnam’s leader Ho Chi Minh. Months later, negotiations between Dr. Kissinger and the North Vietnamese would commence, the first of which took place in Sainteny’s Paris apartment.

Back at the White House, Chapin and Higby were working with the president’s chief-of-staff Bob Haldeman on the arraignments for the telephone call.

Chapin illustrated this to the audience though the projection of silent footage he captured on his Super 8 camera — which he frequently used to film historic events during the course of the administration.

He and Higby explained that the White House was in a state of “hurry up and wait” the evening of July 20.

Recently, the events in the White House have been dramatized by news stories which recycled a memorandum speech writer William Safire wrote to Haldeman, entitled “In event of a moon disaster.”

The memo detailed what Nixon might say if the astronauts died during the mission.

“I think that memo has received more play within the past 10 days, then the 10 days after it was written 50 years ago,” Chapin recalled. “I don’t recall it ever being mentioned.”

President Nixon watched the moon landing at 4:17pm ET with Borman and Haldeman in the little room off the Oval Office. Chapin, Price and other White House staffers were in the Cabinet Room — watching the television with anticipation and smoking cigars in celebration.

“A roar went up in the Cabinet Room, that would be echoed in bars, living rooms and railroad stations across the country,” Price described the atmosphere when Armstrong set foot on the moon.

The actual phone call wouldn’t take place till more than seven hours later.

Chapin narrated the Super 8 footage of the Cabinet Room, to the president’s eventual arrival in the Oval Office.

Among those captured on film were future Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who served as technical advisor for the broadcast which millions would watch across the world.

Ailes arranged for President Nixon to be presented on television — split screen to appear he was facing the astronauts. Ailes’ queues would come through Borman from NASA.

The participants mentioned that Nixon was thrilled about the occasion, but was focused intensely on making the phone call a success.

Immediately, following the telephone call, Nixon remarked to the camera men, “I’d hate to get the toll charges on that call.”

“Make it collect!” one of them shouted back.

After President Nixon left the Oval Office, he joined First Lady Pat, and daughters Tricia and Julie in the Rose Garden for pictures.

“My mother said the whole event was an electric experience,” Eisenhower said.

President Nixon made the longest long distance phone call in history, 240,000 miles to the Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon.

President Nixon traveled to the South Pacific to greet the astronauts for their return. On July 23 he flew to San Francisco before stopping at Johnston Island. He then took a helicopter to the U.S.S. Arlington where he would stay overnight before boarding the U.S.S. Hornet.

Early morning on July 24, he saw the Command Module Columbia splash down in spectacular fashion. The U.S. Navy band played “Columbia, Gem of the Ocean” as the astronauts arrived on the Hornet.

On the Hornet, the Super 8 camera also captured President Nixon’s conversation with the three astronauts — Armstrong, Aldrin and Michael Collins — while in the mobile quarantine unit. Nixon congratulated them on their heroics, made banter about the Major League Baseball all-star game, and said he would invite them and their spouses to a presidential dinner.

Following the splash down, Nixon stopped for rest in the American protectorate of Guam, where in informal remarks with newsmen, he articulated his foreign policy doctrine on July 25.

Nixon then proceeded on an eight country tour through Asia and Europe, which Chapin characterized in strategic terms.

The trip was not only a way to project American prestige across the world and bask in the accomplishment of the moon landing, but also to reassure allies and make inroads with leaders of countries with which the United States didn’t hold traditional relationships.

This included Romania and Pakistan, who would later be crucial to the strategy of opening lines of communication to the People’s Republic of China, which culminated in President Nixon’s historic trip in February 1972.

Following the president’s return, the administration hosted a dinner for Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on August 13 in Los Angeles, where they were presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This event was the beginning of the astronaut’s global goodwill tour. Hewitt recalled that during one stop in Mexico City, seven million people lined the streets to see them.

“They were the rock stars of the world,” Higby commented.

On November 5, 1969, the astronauts returned to America for a ceremony on the South lawn of the White House, two days after President Nixon gave his address to the nation on the Vietnam War, popularly known as the “Silent Majority” speech.

Asked whether the Apollo mission impacted the silent majority, the panelists response was a resounding yes.

For Higby, it brought the country together despite the divisions over the war.

Price agreed that it was definitely an American moment. Quoting an excerpt of the “Airman’s Sonnet” “(“I’ve trod the high, untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God”) he said the event was also a deeply spiritual moment for humanity, those “Riders of the Earth” which President Nixon referred to in his inaugural.

Eisenhower said he always looked at President Nixon as a grandfather, but continues to be amazed about his impact on the world. He said cheerfully, “I didn’t realize his signature is on the moon.”

“The president signed a plaque which the astronauts placed on the moon,” Chapin added.


Nixon calls astronauts on lunar surface, July 20, 1969

On this day in 1969, President Richard Nixon joined some 500 million people around the world watching live pictures on their black-and-white television sets as two American astronauts walked on the moon for the first time.

After the astronauts planted an American flag on the lunar surface, the president congratulated them on a live radio circuit, completing the longest distance person-to-person phone call in history. That evening, Nixon recorded in his diary that “the President held an interplanetary conversation with Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on the Moon.”

“Hello Neil and Buzz,” Nixon said. “I am talking to you by telephone from the Oval Room at the White House, and this certainly has to be the most historic telephone call ever made from the White House.

“I just can't tell you how proud we all are of what you have done. For every American, this has to be the proudest day of our lives, and for people all over the world I am sure that they, too, join with Americans in recognizing what an immense feat this is.

“Because of what you have done the heavens have become a part of man’s world, and as you talk to us from the [Moon’s] Sea of Tranquility, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to bring peace and tranquility to earth.

“For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this earth are truly one — one in their pride in what you have done and one in our prayers that you will return safely to earth.”

“Thank you, Mr. President,” Armstrong replied. “It is a great honor and privilege for us to be here representing not only the United States, but men of peaceable nations, men with an interest and a curiosity, and men with a vision for the future.”


Watch the video: President Nixon telephones the Apollo 11 crew on the Moon (June 2022).


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