Buzz Aldrin salutes the U.S. flag on Mare Tranquillitatis during Apollo 11 in 1969. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What would have happened if the Apollo 11 crew had been unable to take off again from the lunar surface ?
The historic Apollo 11 moon landing was a risky business, when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the surface there was no guarantee that they would be able to lift off again. While engineers did everything in their power to make the craft as reliable as possible there was still a chance that the two men would have ended up stranded there.
Because of this risk, both NASA and President Nixon had a contingency plan in place if the worst were to happen. Fellow orbiting astronaut Michael Collins would have been ordered to return to Earth alone, while Nixon would have made a special announcement in tribute to Armstrong and Aldrin. NASA would have kept in contact with them until the very end and a clergyman would have spoken to them over the radio, commending their souls to the deep.
Fortunately however this plan was never needed, to date every astronaut NASA ever sent to the moon returned alive and well at the end of the mission.