Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, 1902. First Tauchnitz Edition. Wells's ninth novel, narrating a journey to the moon by a businessman and an eccentric scientist, who encounter a sophisticated civilization of insect-like creatures they call "Selenites," who take them captive underground. A distinguished copy, from the estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Safire, who served as Richard M. Nixon's primary speechwriter. Much has been commited in print and to film regarding the difficulties involved in the Apollo 11 mission - one that was fraught with peril and uncertainty. In a 1999 Meet the Press interview, Safire recalled that the danger was not so much in the moon landing itself, but in the lunar ascent; in that scenario, should it fail, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin "...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."
On July 18, 1969, two days before Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon, Safire prepared a contingency speech for Nixon to deliver, in the terrible event something went wrong and the astronauts were stranded. The speech, included in a memo to Nixon's Chief-of-Staff H.R. Haldeman titled "In Event of Moon Disaster," would have been delivered to a nation holding its collective breath for news of the astronauts' safe return. The speech, which remained unpublished until its discovery in the National Archives shortly before the mission's 30th anniversary, has since been canonized as one of the greatest speeches never delivered:
"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 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."
A superb copy of this key work by Wells, with historic provenance. cf.Wells 18; Barron, Anatomy of Wonder, 3rd Ed., 1-98; Bleiler (1978 ed.), p.205; Todd & Bowden 3577b. Item #3982
Small octavo (16cm); marbled paper-covered boards, with gilt-stamped morocco title label at upper spine; ,6-287,pp. Author, journalist, and presidential speechwriter William Safire's copy, with his holograph pencil notes on front endpaper ("Date of 1st edition 1901" along upper margin, and "(Neil Armstrong) 1st man on the moon" at lower margin), and additionally signed on the same page by astronaut and naval aviator Neil Armstrong ("Neil Armstrong / Apollo 11"). Gentle sunning to spine, upper corners bumped, with board exposure to corners, some wear to spine ends, and moderate toning to endpapers; a Very Good, sound copy.