RUSH: Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969, and I will never forget the moment. I was 18 in 1969, my second year in radio. It was summertime, and by quirk of fate, my air shift ended an hour before the scheduled walk on the moon. I never got out of the radio station faster than I did that day. Normally you had to kick me out of the radio station; I slept there. But in this case, there wasn’t a TV in the radio station. I had to head home and watch this.
At the time, I was a space program groupie. I was as absorbed in it as any 18-year-old was. I was blown away by something I had learned that made me forever think about the kind of men that ended up being astronauts and the fears and things of that nature that they faced. I learned that William Safire, who was then a speechwriter for Richard Nixon, had written a speech that Nixon was to give in the event that Armstrong and Aldrin were stranded on the moon and couldn’t get home. Michael Collins was in the command module orbiting the moon, and these guys were going to join him after the moon walk and the rover trips, the whole mission. They were gonna then launch from the moon and rendezvous with Collins, and then they were gonna head home.
What if the rocket didn’t fire to get off the moon? If the rocket didn’t fire, they’re stranded. There’s no possibility for a rescue mission. There’s no way. What do you do? You know that they’re going to die on the moon. NASA had plans for the last communication, what it was going to be, when it was going to be, long before either Aldrin or Armstrong would have passed away. There wouldn’t be constant communication up until the time they were unable to anymore. It was all laid out. And the Safire speech for Nixon was very brief. It wasn’t very long, but it was well done. I don’t have it here in front of me. I can read it to you later. It was a really well done speech.
I got to thinking, what if I were Armstrong or Aldrin, and I’ve walked on the moon, I’ve gotten there, I’ve done the mission. I’ve walked on the moon. I’ve driven the rover around. I don’t know if they had a rover on the first mission, whatever, gotta get off. They test fired this rocket that lifts the lunar module back up to orbit to rendezvous with the command module 250 times on earth. They fired it and fired it, and it worked every time. But it was the kind of engine, if I remember it, it was the kind of assembly that, if it didn’t work the first time, that was it, because of the atmosphere or the lack of one on the moon. I could be wrong about this, but my memory is that they had one chance, and if the rocket didn’t fire, then that was it.
They were of course perfectly healthy at that time. I don’t know how long it would have taken for their lives to end, but it would have happened. We don’t know if there would have been suicides just to bring it about quicker. But the reason for even mentioning all this is these are the kind of people they were. These are the kind of risks they took. They were real pioneers, a bravery like we don’t see much, and very often. And it’s something that now is so taken for granted. But then, 1969, that was one of the biggest crapshoots of the whole mission: Was that rocket gonna fire? And they had a camera. They had put a camera to witness the liftoff of the lunar module back off the surface. And when it worked, that thing, I mean, it was out of sight. The camera was incapable of following it, obviously, nobody there. The electronics were not such that they could remote control the camera to follow the liftoff. The rocket fired and that thing shot up, and it was out of view and off the screen in less than a second.
I got to thinking when I remembered that there was a speech that Nixon had ready to go if they didn’t get back, just what these guys faced. The unknown of everything that they faced. These were really incredible people. Armstrong was incredible in many ways. You know, he did sign autographs. But when he found out people were selling his autographs, he stopped signing. He did not allow himself to personally profit a penny from what had happened. Imagine that today. Not a penny. Whenever anything similar to a Neil Armstrong autograph, when he discovered stuff like that was being sold, he shut it down. He ran the risk of people thinking that he was insincere or uppity or arrogant. It wasn’t that at all. He had no desire to commercialize in any way, shape, manner, or form what he had done. He made speeches, but he didn’t run around trumpeting himself as the greatest thing that had ever happened, the bravest guy. He went back and lived his small-town life outside Cincinnati for the rest of his life. Luck of the draw, first man on the moon, but just an amazing story.
He passed away over the weekend to some fanfare. NBC’s original headline was: “Neil Young” passed away. And they had to be told, “No, no, no. No, no, no. Neil Young is still alive. He’s a singer. This is Neil Armstrong, the first guy on the moon.” “Oh! Oh! That Neil. Okay,” and then they corrected it. Here is the beginning of Safire’s speech that he wrote for Nixon, should Armstrong and Aldrin be stranded.
“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.” That was the start. It was NBC that said Neil Young had died. Yeah, it was NBC on their website. (It was not the Huffing and Puffington Post. I thought it was the Huffing and Puffington Post.)
The former news network, NBC. Right. “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.”
On July 18th, 1969, Safire wrote that for Nixon to deliver, should that rocket have failed to fire. And it’s a tiny rocket, just a tiny little thing. I remember enough… It was Cronkite that I watched explain all of this: what kind of rocket it was, how often it had been tested and fired. It had just enough fuel for the right length of burn. It had to be precise down to milliseconds — the time, the launch period. It was amazing. And had it not fired, that speech would have been given. There wasn’t a second try. There wasn’t a second chance.
And to think, they’re sitting there knowing this.
I mean, these are the kind of people that they were.
They face things. Imagine going to sleep every night pondering this. I’m in awe of people like Neil Armstrong and Aldrin (and Mike Collins). They were the first to actually touch down on another celestial body and return. And, of course, at 18, this is a highly impressionable age. And ten years later everybody’s taking it for granted. Now, NASA is “Muslim outreach.” That’s what it is.
What do you mean, people aren’t gonna understand why I said it? NASA is Muslim outreach. Obama has decided we’re not gonna explore. No manned trips back to the moon or to Mars or anywhere else. There is no manned space program. It’s been cut back, and the purpose of NASA is Muslim outreach. I saw the video sound bite of the current NASA administrator making that point again.
RUSH: By the way, I need to correct myself on one thing involving Neil Armstrong. April 14th, 2010: “Apollo 11 hero Neil Armstrong today lashed out at President Barack Obama’s decision to axe NASA plans to return to the moon, describing the move as ‘devastating’ to the US space program.” Buzz Aldrin was in favor of it, but not Armstrong. This is according to Australian news. Armstrong was unhappy with Obama’s decisions on NASA, his plan to turn it into Muslim outreach and to suspend the manned space program.
The point is, he spoke rarely. He did not capitalize at all personally, did not even try on his fame. He refused to be turned into a pop culture figure. He refused all attempts to make him famous in the modern way people get famous in our pop culture. He had just done his job. And he preferred to stay behind scenes and not act as though it was anything. He didn’t spike the football. He didn’t call attention to himself. I’m also old enough to remember all the concerns that NASA had at the time that they pick just the right man to be first one to walk on the moon.
Think of that process.
Think of the lobbying that went on there.
Think of the attempts at manipulation, whatever the stories are, to be the first. I’m old enough to remember this, the concerns that NASA had at the time that they pick just the right guy. And it’s safe to say that they did pick exactly the right man to be first on the moon: Neil Armstrong. He was a hero in every meaning of the word, and we need (and could use) a lot more Neil Armstrongs. Now more than ever. Armstrong wrote an open letter to Obama about his plans for the space program. And he didn’t call MSNBC or the news networks when he did it.
He just wrote it and sent it.
RUSH: Art, Fort Myers, Florida. I’m glad you called, sir. Welcome to the EIB Network, hello.
CALLER: Very happy to talk to you, Rush.
RUSH: Same to you. All we’re asking, would somebody on our side please confront the left wing of the Democrat Party and leave us alone? You people in the Republican Party, would you realize it’s not people like me who are your problem. It’s people like Barack Obama who are your problem and Debbie “Blabbermouth” Schultz. Somebody on our side’s got to go attack the left wing of the Republican Party. They’re not nice people. Sorry about that. What were you gonna say there, Art?
CALLER: Well, I agree with you. I absolutely agree with you.
RUSH: Well, great. Thanks for the call.
CALLER: I’m one of those political consultants you like to bash all the time, but let’s get this on a lighter note. I wanted to tell you a Neil Armstrong story.
CALLER: I’ve got an autographed newspaper that says, “Man Reaches the Moon Today,” and it’s signed by Neil Armstrong. I wanted to tell you how I got it. Neil Armstrong, after he went to the moon, he did travel a little bit, and did some publicity. He actually spoke at a chamber of commerce dinner in Fort Myers, and my mom went to that dinner and she saved those newspapers and she got one of them signed for each one of my brothers and sisters. But, in his speech, what impressed me was, and I want to confirm what you had said earlier, in his speech to the crowd, he described what it was like to go to the moon. And my mom was telling me about this and she was just riveted by it. He said, given everything that could go wrong, they did not expect to return from that trip. They did not believe, everything that could go wrong, that they were gonna make it back. And so then when it came time for questions, somebody asked him, “Then why did you go on the mission?” Remember, he was a military man, and he said, “He considered it a sacrifice for his country.” And that just rivets me. I think about it all the time.
RUSH: Yeah, I want to explore that a little bit, ’cause you’re right. They didn’t think all those systems were gonna work, even though they had tested ’em hundreds of times. Like I said, the margin of error was minuscule, but that rocket firing to get that lunar module off the lunar surface, if that didn’t fire, then they were there forever. Thanks, Art, very much. A great story.
RUSH: Our last caller, the guy from Fort Myers whose mother got him the autographed newspaper story of Neil Armstrong. He said that the riveting part of the speech Neil Armstrong told the crowd at the chamber of commerce was that they didn’t think they were gonna get back. They didn’t think they were gonna get off the moon. That doesn’t surprise me in the least. For those of you who weren’t alive then, or were too young to really get into it, it was that the whole process of getting to the moon, the way gravity — there’s not enough fuel to get there. That was strictly great mathematical calculation using the earth and moon’s gravity to get there.
Then you’ve got the lunar module orbiting. It’s got enough fuel to get it out of lunar orbit and back into the earth’s gravity, but it doesn’t have enough fuel to make major course alterations to go get a lunar module that launches off target. It really was astounding. And this tiny little rocket that was to launch the lunar module back into orbit to rendezvous with the command module up there, that was the real dicey thing. If it didn’t launch, if that rocket didn’t fire, then they were stranded. They would be there forever.
But I had not heard Neil Armstrong ever say, I had never heard anybody say that he had said that they didn’t think they’d get back. That makes it even more chilling to me. As I told you in the first hour, William Safire had a speech all written for Nixon in the event they were unable to get off the lunar surface and get back. I have been to the Air and Space Museum. The Apollo, the Gemini, the Mercury, the Apollo capsule. In fact, the Mercury capsule, the original design didn’t even have a window. They were afraid to put a window in it structurally, and the astronauts insisted on it. They insisted on a window just to be able to see. They wanted some visual ability to pilot that thing in case they had to, rather than just rely totally on instruments. So they went back and they put a window in it, but the window is tiny.
I remember when John Glenn was the first man to orbit, when Glenn reentered the atmosphere, outside that window he saw the fireball that is reentry, and they didn’t know what it was, and he thought the capsule was coming apart, he thought he was dead, and all it was was the normal fireball of the heat shield throwing off sparks and a giant red glow and material falling off the thing and flying by. But so many things for the first time. They knew about the heat of reentry, but they had no idea what it was gonna look like, and that was the only way they did was with that window. Yeah, that stuff was tiny. Even the three-man Apollo capsule was tiny. It had to be for the weight, just to get it off the ground here and in orbit.
It’s all fascinating. The space program just had me riveted. As a young kid, the space program had me riveted. No, I never wanted to be an astronaut, but the whole thing, how it happened, the way they made things work had me totally captivated.