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What if Apollo 11 had ended in disaster?

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The Eagle landed on empty.

Forty-five years ago today, we watched as the lunar module — the Eagle — and two humans set down on the moon.

Little did we know at the time, it could have ended much differently.

July 20, 1969.

People in living rooms, in bars and restaurants, on the street huddle around TVs. As anticipation builds on Earth, concerns are mounting in the lunar module.

Neil Armstrong, the mission commander, sees the landing area littered with boulders and is forced to improvise.

Then, in the final seconds of manually guiding the Eagle to a good spot in the Sea of Tranquility, computer alarms go off.

At 4:18 p.m. EDT, the Eagle has only 30 seconds of fuel left but Armstrong has succeeded.

“Houston, Tranquility Base here,” he tells Mission Control in Texas. “The Eagle has landed.”

Armstrong later admits he was most worried about the landing. “The unknowns were rampant. … There were just a thousand things to worry about.”

In case something had gone wrong, Bill Safire, the oracle of language who worked for Richard Nixon, crafted a speech (with a nod to Rupert Brooke) for the president to deliver:

WilliamSafire

Read more about the breathless moon landing at NASA.

h/t  The Atlantic for the moon disaster speech

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