Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

One Space Program, Under God, Indivisible ....

Somehow I missed this: President Nixon wanted that plaque on the moon left by Apollo 11 to read as follows:
We came in peace, under God, for all mankind
Well, I'm not sure about the commas. I supplied those. It's a reasonable guess, though. You have to admit, without commas it would have come across as breathless, as if moonsuits only had enough oxygen for Neil to scramble out there, fling a plaque onto the lunar regolith, and crawl back into the LEM to gasp. Likewise, if you attribute the words directly to Nixon, doing without the commas would have lacked gravitas, rather as if he'd said
So whom should we thank for averting this cosmic faux pas? According to Julian Scheer, Assistant Administrator of NASA for Public Affairs from 1962 to 1971, the only reason we didn't get that wording is because of his canny sense of bureaucratic chaos. Here is his 1999 memory of a 1969 exchange with Nixon loyalist Peter Flanigan:
"Dammit, Julian, the President wants that change. The president is big on God."


"Julian, Billy Graham is here nearly every Sunday. The President wants 'God' on the plaque!"

There was nothing left to do but say "yes."

It occurred to me that in the rush of events, no one would remember. That worked out. The plaque that has been resting on the Sea of Tranquility for 30 years is the original, without the benefit of President Nixon's editing.
Flanigan joined Bechtel - which then as now is a GOP-linked petrodollar laundromat - after serving in the Nixon administration. According to an obit from his alma mater, Scheer went into management and communications consulting, then went on to work in corporate public relations for LTV, an aerospace/defense contractor. His role in the Apollow program was clearly the peak of his career:
Apollo astronaut Frank Borman told The Washington Post, “The (space) program was really a battle in the Cold War, and Julian Scheer was one of its generals.”
A general with a brain, apparently. One wonders what Billy Graham had to say about it all.


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