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'In the Event of a Moon Disaster' movie imagines Apollo 11 ending in tragedy

Buzz Aldrin on the moon
Buzz Aldrin on the moon
NASA (public domain)

According to a Wednesday story on Coming Soon, a movie called “In the Event of a Moon Disaster” has been greenlit for production starting in early 2015. The movie is based on the premise that the Apollo 11 moon landing ended in a disaster that left Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to die on the lunar surface. That alternate ending was actually quite possible.

During the final descent of the lunar module, Armstrong and Aldrin found themselves being taken straight into a boulder strewn field on the lunar surface by the automatic landing system. Armstrong quickly took manual control of the lunar module and landed it in a relatively flat part of the moon that would become famous as Tranquility Base. But that and a pair of computer glitches that occurred around the same time could have resulted in tragedy rather than triumph.

The movie is based on a speech that writer William Safire had written for President Richard Nixon in the event of a moon disaster. The speech, perhaps the best Safire ever wrote, was a heartfelt salute to the fallen astronauts as well as a vow that men would follow in their footsteps. It ended with, “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.”

What might have happened in the event Apollo 11 had ended in disaster is open to speculation. NASA had one more shot at fulfilling President Kennedy’s land a man on the moon by the end of the decade goal in Apollo 12, which made a successful mission in our history in November, 1969. It could be that Pete Conrad might have become the first man to land on the moon and return alive.

A story, “A Monument More Lasting than Brass,” written by Steven Mohan, imagines the Apollo program being terminated soon after an Apollo 11 disaster. The moon landing program is revived under President Reagan, with the politics surrounding it bound up in the 1980s. There is also a mystery about the final fates of Armstrong and Aldrin trapped on the lunar surface.

Tate Taylor, who is best known for the racially themed period movie “The Help” is slated to direct. The screenplay was written by feature film writer and former journalist Mike Jones. The casting process has already commenced.

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