Buzz Aldrin is an American engineer and former astronaut, and the second person to walk on the Moon. He was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history. He set foot on the Moon at 03:15:16 on July 21, 1969, following mission commander Neil Armstrong. He is also a retired colonel in the United States Air Force and a Command Pilot.
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I am hoping to be designated a lunar ambassador along with all the 24 living or deceased crews who have reached the moon. In the meantime, I like to be known as a global space statesman.
This July 20th is the 45th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Everywhere in the world that I visit, people tell me stories of where they were the day that Neil Armstrong and I walked on the moon.
Today, we are launching a social media campaign which includes a YouTube Channel, #Apollo45. This is a channel where you can share your story, your parents', your grandparents', or your friends' stories of that moment and how it inspires you, with me and everyone else who will be watching.
I do hope you consider joining in. Please follow along at youtube.com/Apollo45.
Victoria from reddit will be assisting me today. Ask me anything.
Edit: Be careful what you dream of, it just may happen to you. Anyone who dreams of something, has to be prepared. Thank you!
Hello Mr. Aldrin!
Our nation and our world have been waiting for another monumental achievement by humanity ever since you were a pioneer in the space race and set foot on the Moon. For lack of any serious government effort, I’m rooting for Elon Musk to accomplish this by sending man to Mars. What advice would you give Elon to achieve the ultimate objective of permanence on Mars?
There is very little doubt, in my mind, that what the next monumental achievement of humanity will be the first landing by an Earthling, a human being, on the planet Mars. And I expect that within 2 decades of the 5th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, that within 2 decades America will lead an international presence on Planet Mars. Some people may be rooting for Elon - I think he could, with his SpaceX, contribute considerably, enormously, to an international activity not only at the moon but also on Mars. I have considered whether a landing on Mars could be done by the private sector. It conflicts with my very strong idea, concept, conviction, that the first human beings to land on Mars should not come back to Earth. They should be the beginning of a build-up of a colony / settlement, I call it a "permanence." A settlement you can visit once or twice, come back, and then decide you want to settle. Same with a colony. But you want it to be permanent from the get-go, from the very first. I know that many people don't feel that that should be done. Some people even consider it distinctly a suicide mission. Not me! Not at all. Because we will plan, we will construct from the moon of Mars, over a period of 6-7 years, the landing of different objects at the landing site that will be brought together to form a complete Mars habitat and laboratory, similar to what has been done at the Moon. Tourism trips to Mars and back are just not the appropriate way for human beings from Earth - to have an individual company, no matter how smart, send people to mars and bring them back, it is VERY very expensive. It delays the obtaining of permanence, internationally. Your question referred to a monumental achievement by humanity - that should not be one private company at all, it should be a collection of the best from all the countries on Earth, and the leader of the nation or the groups who makes a commitment to do that in 2 decades will be remembered throughout history, hundreds and thousands of years in the future of the history of humanity, beginning, commencing, a human occupation of the solar system.
Is there any experience on Earth that even compares slightly to having been on the Moon?
My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was "Magnificent desolation." The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream - achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate - there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.
Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away - no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up- but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.
That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.
Do the pictures of space do any justice to the real thing?
Yes, they do. They recall (for me) the actual experience of myself in space - not by words, not by print, but visual reminders, it brings back a very in-depth appreciation. They can be used very well for communicating in speeches, talks, and more to other people who can actually see what i saw and what the camera saw.
How do you feel about people who claim you faked the moon landing?
Can you describe how the moon felt to you? (Was it an adrenaline rush when your feet hit the surface? Was it soft or hard? Could you feel temperature through the suit at all?)
Funniest moment during the mission to the moon and back?
I personally don't waste very much of my time on what is so obvious to a really thinking person, of all the evidence - we talked about Carl Sagan recently, who made a very prophetic observation. He said that "extraordinary observations require extraordinary evidence to make them believable." There is not extraordinary evidence of (as far as I know) all the claims that have been made that we did NOT go to the Moon. There are photographs from lunar reconnaissance orbiter satellites, going around the moon, that clearly show all of the experiments that we described when we came back from the moon, and they are evidence that we were there, telling the truth, you can even see a trail of Neil Armstrong's trek (not footprints really but the stirred up dust in walking or jogging behind him) to see the west Crater that we had flown over, that Neil was concerned about landing close to that - and he took photos of that and then he went back to the spacecraft. I was back inside the spacecraft at this time, but looking at the photos of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiters, you can clearly see the evidence of Neil's trek. And he took photographs, and all the signs are still there. Our flag in Apollo 11 was, without the doubt, the best looking flag that was stuck on the moon. But it was close to the spacecraft, so when we lifted off, Neil observed that the rocket exhaust caused the flag to strike the ground, to fall over. And by this time, I'm sure the radiation in space has deteriorated every piece of cloth on the flags, whether they are flying on the surface or standing up. We perhaps in the future will have very accurate rovers that can approach the different landing sites, and perhaps make available to people back on earth the ability to control a video scan, get out elevations, with floodlights to illuminate during the 14 days of darkness - I believe this will be very inspiring to people back here on earth, if we have the funds to do that, it would be great to do that.
The space suit had a soft interior to the shoes, and when the boots got put over the shoes, there is much cushioning effect, and the light weight due to the reduced gravity and the thickness of the dust, made it difficult to sense the feel of the surface. it was so remarkable, the way the bootprints were left, with such strong definition of the soil underneath, like moist talcum powder I guess, it keeps its shape, so I photographed before and after, pictures of the surface, and then I thought that looked a little lonely, so I put another bootprint down, and moved my foot a little bit so you could see my foot and the bootprint.
I have since been told by a comic, by a humorist, what humor really is - but just as we were leaving the moon, I had given some thought to this, and I was able to create two achievements of humor in one sentence.
When Mission Control said, to us, as we were about to leave "Tranquility bass, you are cleared for liftoff," I responded by saying to them "Roger, Houston, we are number one on the runway."
There wasn't anybody else for us to be 2, 3, 4 to! But there wasn't any runway up there either!
It's a phrase most pilots hear many times - "Roger Tower, acknowledge we are number 3 for takeoff on the runway" Because there are people waiting before us in an airplane to start take off. Pilots always get it. We are not going to roll ahead with increasing speed, we were going to lift off straight UP the way we left the earth!.
Col Aldrin, what went through your head when you first looked back and saw the Earth from space?
"Where are the billions and billions and billions of people, on what I'm looking at? We're the only 3 that are not back there."
And we didn't get to celebrate. Because we were out of town.
How were the cast and crew of 30 Rock? Anything memorable you can share?
Well, 30 Rock means 30 Rockefeller Plaza. My father, in 1925, 1926, in the Reserve of the Air Corps, worked as Aviation Fuel Manager for Standard Oil of New Jersey, that's where I lived at that time, and he would go into NYC and work at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. So when I was asked to consider participating, I jumped for joy, and I can't remember a more pleasant episode of discussions with Tina Fey as we talked about her fictitious mother's (I think it was) love affair that she had with me, Buzz Aldrin. And then we looked at the Moon, and we both sort of cursed at it for various reasons and said - I'll never forget the line - "I walked on your FACE!"
Hello Mr. Aldrin! Is there anything you regret not getting to do while in space?
On the Gemini mission in space, on my doctoral thesis at MIT, those techniques were used by Gemini, Apollo and even the space shuttle. But I was very disappointed when it looked like I wouldn't even have a chance to fly in the two-man Gemini program! I was not scheduled to be anything other than the back up crew. A tragedy changed that, and I was a backup pilot on Gemini 9, and then I would be on the primary crew for Gemini 12, the final mission. The #1 air force experiment was on Gemini 9 and 12, but its use was unsuccessful on Gemini 9, and so I became the first astronaut to train underwater in neutral buoyancy. I had been a scuba diver 10 years earlier, and knew that training underwater would be very very effective, and I felt very confident of carrying out the difficult procedures to be able to free-maneuver outside the spacecraft with the equipment (this is what George Clooney's character was doing with the jetpack in Gravity) - unfortunately NASA cancelled that experiment.
Thank you for doing the AMA!
Ever find time for computer games like Kerbal Space Program? I've gotten 3 kids more interested in math and science after showing it to them.
Have a fantastic day!
I have inspired my own video games, 10, 20, 30 years ago, and now there is in Europe a video challenge, a video activity, entitled "Buzz Aldrin's Space Program Manager." And there game players can build their own space program from the beginning, and from where we are now on into the future, with some of the components that I believe will make great progress in our transportation systems between the Earth and the Moon and Mars in a long-standing reusable way into the future. I'll have to check out Kerbal Space Program.
Mr. Aldrin, do you watch movies about people going to space, if so, which one is your favourite?
I have watched many movies from martians coming to Earth in New Jersey in the form of giant snakes - this was a radio program created by Orson Welles, War of the Worlds - and I've read many science fiction stories, descriptions, by Isaac Asimov, but my favorite of course is Arthur C. Clarke. So 2001: A Space Odyssey. And then later on, I managed to arrange a cruise ship departing from Sri Lanka where Clarke lived, and I was able to stay with him, talking about many, many things in the past. I wrote a book along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, called First on the Moon, and the epilogue was written by Arthur C. Clarke. When I wrote my book of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke wrote a one page forward that was OUTSTANDING, absolutely, as he praised our ingenuity and imagination. And when we visited, we talked about a treasure he had discovered in the ocean, and we both hoped in the future that he and I could scuba dive and perhaps retrieve some of that treasure. That never happened, unfortunately.
I thought that the movie Gravity, the depiction of people moving around in zero gravity, was really the best I have seen. The free-falling, the actions that took place between two people, were very, I think, exaggerated, but probably bent the laws of physics. But to a person who's been in space, we would cringe looking at something that we hoped would NEVER, EVER Happen. It's very thrilling for the person who's never been there, because it portrays the hazards, the dangers that could come about if things begin to go wrong, and I think that as I came out of that movie, I said to myself and others, "Sandra Bullock deserves an Oscar."
Sir, I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for your push for Mars. You and the crew of 11 have, and continue to be an inspiration for all of us. As for a question: what can we, the American public, do to help push the powers that be into legitimate funding for new manned missions to back to the moon or to Mars? Thank you again!
We in the United States cannot come close to the return to leadership that the United States had 45 years ago, and shortly thereafter. The lack of funding that supported missions to the Moon and return, a pioneering effort for humanity, required 4% of the national budget of the United States. Now we are at 1/2 of 1% and have been that way for quite some while. To those of us that feel that America is a leader, it was, we helped win WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and we can lead the other nations in peace, just the way that the plaque on the moon that Neil and I left, "We came in peace for all Mankind" - I believe that that is so American, to do things, and share with other nations of the world. That's how we should go back to the Moon, not by competing with other nations, like China, to land our people - we've done that. The robotics, the operation of rovers and such at a great distance, has improved tremendously in the last 45 years. I don't believe the human mind has increased that much at all. So let the other nations of the world put their citizens on the surface of the moon for prestige - that is a major reason why nations put their people on the Moon. But we've done that, we can help the other nations, and we can help other nations use our facilities, and then we can deploy a radio telescope on Mars via balloon and design a strong suggestion for what the lunar base should be, on the near side & the far side, we can help in the construction of those elements, and we can bring those elements that are landed by other countries (because they are heavy, expensive) - we can bring them together and then the interface between elements that will come together in a complicated way because this is in a gravity field with uneven terrain, it's not as simple as the space shuttle docking with the space station, or any spacecraft, and zero gravity, it's much much more difficult, it requires (from a distance) bringing them sufficiently close and aligning them so that the two interfaces from adjacent cylinders (that may be 20 feet in diameter, 30 feet long, vertically part of the the shared space onboard the base) and from each one of these 3 can emanate 2 different nations for a total of 6 different individual nations growing outward for their habitation and laboratories and to control robots on the surface, to establish a distinct presence and yet sharing with the other people who have their personnel and their astronauts or the front or back side. But that is the great contribution of the United States, technically, but it's not a contribution that requires great investment of money for big rockets, and sustaining people on the surface.
Returning to the Moon with NASA astronauts is not the best usage of our resources. Because OUR resources should be directed to outward, beyond-the-moon, to establishing habitation and laboratories on the surface of Mars that can be built, assembled, from the close-by moons of Mars. With very little time delay - a second or less. Much better than controlling things on the Moon from the Earth. So when NASA funding comes up for review, please call your lawmakers to support it.
How does it feel to be THE REAL buzz lightyear? Also how can I be an astronaut and go to the moon?
I am @theRealBuzz on Twitter!
They wanted a name that is better than Lunar Larry - and it became Buzz Lightyear because they wanted it to be more genuine. So now that I have changed my name from Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. to Buzz Aldrin, I'm seriously thinking of adding a middle name - so it would become Buzz "Lightyear" Aldrin.
My sister called me "Buzzard" when I was a baby - she couldn't say "Brother" so I've been Buzz my whole life.
What advice can you give to current undergrad aerospace engineering students?
Drive over to the nearest airport, and enroll in flight classes. You will experience the joy of freedom in the air above, as you study the mechanics of how this is made possible by understanding the construction, the laws of motion, the air that can provide lift when it is moved by propulsion through the air, and stay above the gravity pulling the airplane back down to earth.
What's the most frightening moment that you have ever experienced in space?
I believe it was after leaving the surface of the moon and completing a successful rendezvous with Mike Collins in the command module, as we approached connecting / docking, the procedures in the checklist said one thing, and I thought maybe doing it a slightly different way, rolling and pitching instead of something else, and I thought that was better on the spur of the moment! It turns out that it was not a good thing to do, because it caused the platform to become locked, and we were not able to use the primary thrusters, the primary guidance, to control the spacecraft, to its final few feet to dock and join the other spacecraft. That was my mistake. I suggested to my commander that we do it differently, and it was his mistake to assume that i knew what I was talking about. So we both made mistakes - brought about by me! We recovered successfully on the "abort guidance" system.
(I don't admit that to many people)
(but I'm sure the mission controllers in Houston, while it was happening or certainly afterwards, they certainly knew what had happened, but fortunately they didn't squeal on us)
Mr Aldrin , what do you consider your biggest accomplishment that's totally unrelated to space?
I was very close to the top of my class at West Point. And I continued to expand my understanding of the world around me, and the human evolutions here on earth, the achievements perhaps to other people are impressive when I tell them that not only have I been to the North Pole, I haven't been to the South Pole yet, but I have been to the Titanic in a little yellow french submarine. It took an hour and a half just to sink down in the ocean about 2 miles deep to look out the thick glass window and see the Titanic. The visibility was such that we could see the bow, it became very famous in the movie thanks to James Cameron, but the visibility was not so good that you could actually see the bottom of the ocean that the Titanic was resting on. So it was an eerie site, of a ship festooned with rusting metal, like gingerbread. Floating, floating out the window in the Ocean.
If you had the opportunity to speak to the crew of the first manned mission to Mars prior to launch, what would you say to them?
Realize that you are perhaps the most ambitious, the most historical pioneers that the earth has produced since its beginning.
And you are given a great honor in spending the rest of your lives pioneering for mankind.
AND HAVE FUN!
Hi Mr. Aldrin!
What advice would you like to give to a lab full of aspiring engineers and astrophysicists?
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
COCONUT ICE CREAM.
Don't waste your time on beaming people up or down. Instead, consider gravity waves as advanced physics of the universe that could be used to travel interstellar distances. And ENJOY floating in space, rather than being decomposed or recomposed in another location.
Mr Aldrin, I am interested in what kind of music a highly distinguished astronaut such are yourself would find yourself listening to. Could you enlighten me?
Well, I prefer the soft singing voice of Karen Carpenter. I have heard Frank Sinatra sing "Fly me to the Moon" almost too many times. So I'm interested in composing a new song, entitled "Get your ass to Mars!"
How did you guys decide who would walk on the moon first. Was it always going to be Neil from the beginning or was there some Rock Paper Scissors matches to decide?
I felt that there was an obligation on my part to put forth the reasons why a commander who had been burdened down with an enormous amount of responsibility and training for activities (and because of that, in all previous missions, if someone, a crew member, was to spacewalk, it was always the junior person, not the space commander who would stay inside). We knew this would be different because 2 people would be going out. There was a group at NASA who felt the junior person (me) should go out first, but many people felt the great symbology of the commander from past expeditions or arrivals at a destination. The decision that was made was absolutely correct as far as who went out first, symbolically. However who was in charge of the what happened after both people are outside, I believe, could have been done differently. I was not the commander, I was a junior person, so once both were outside, I followed my leader, because we (NASA) had not put together detailed jobs of people outside. I believe it could have been improved. But it was very successful for what it was. And the decision wasn't up to me, or Neil, it was up to people much higher up in NASA.
You were what kids wanted to be when they grew up.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
An aviator! A pilot! After I was a quarterback for Notre Dame.
Does actual astronaut food taste as bad as the novelty stuff we can randomly buy in stores?
I think it has been very selected and prepared for long duration trips in a partial atmosphere and in zero gravity, where a can of peas or rice or whatever would pretty soon be all over the cabin! In the Simpsons I played a role where I opened a bag of popcorn and it was all over the place. Bart Simpson said "no no no! don't open that!" The taste was generally pleasant. But it was mostly freeze-dried so we had to add water to the container and let it set - and around the instrument panel and other parts of the spacecraft, we had certain places we had velcro so we could attach things so we wouldn't have to hold onto each one or have it float around the cabin. We had to use a water gun to send water into the plastic bag with the freeze-dried food. Now later on, things got much better and they were more like TV dinners that I remember - I don't see too many these days - as long as the food has some stickiness to it, it won't float around, but if it is like M&Ms, that are used in training with zero gravity, they're all over the place, and so would water form into spheres and float around in the cabin! So the crewman has to be very careful about adjusting to a lack of gravity sensation. We had very small shrimp that had a little bit of cocktail sauce, and when exposed to water, were very very tasty. But you wouldn't want a shrimp an inch long floating around the cabin!
Hello Mr. Aldrin,
If you were given the opportunity to go to the Moon again, would you?
My intellect now, having been there, and developed, and thought about humans going to Mars, has been so intense and so very useful to the future, I think I need to continue to think and plan and marry all of the different things that we could do that make transportation in space from the earth to the space station, from the earth to the moon to space stations around the moon to visiting an asteroid, which the President said we should do - when he observed in 2010 in his first term that humans should visit an asteroid by 2025. And I believe we should do that again, but we should have a robot slowly conserving fuel, so that in 1, or 2 years, get there just after a crew has arrived on the same asteroids. Combining those 2 without a human being, and with a human being, each has significant limitations but when those are put together, on the same asteroid, you are able to do much, much more for that mission in 2025, or 2026, or 2027, than the present mission that NASA and some of Congress and some of the President's office feel. So no - because I am needed here on earth to focus on opening up these opportunities, and also because the budget would not be there.
I've always been curious what it would be like to experience reentry. What kind of emotions and thoughts did you experience when falling back to the earth?
I had 2 re-entries: one in 1966 and one in 1969. In 1966, it was the last reentry in the 2-person Kennedy program. So I held a camera up against the window to film the flames from the heat shield that was behind us, but foremost in the spacecraft, and the flames were going backwards, away from us, in the front, and I was holding the camera and taking photographs. The g-forces increased and I wasn't able to continue to hold the camera against the window, so I had to lay it back against my chest, but still continued to photograph the re-entry until there was no more unusual visual effects of the energy in the atmosphere. And it was very comforting to understand that the people in Houston, the controllers, had very high confidence that we were on the right path. And the right path means that as you enter the atmosphere, the lift of the spacecraft is down to be able to capture the trajectory from the moon, and once that is assured, that the spacecraft won't skip out, we now roll the spacecraft so the lift vector is up, it's predicted by the computer, as basically a target, moving it up to where it now was exactly where we wanted it to be, and then we could roll the spacecraft so that it no longer had increasing lift in any direction but had zero lift, effectively, and we would guide it down to a point where we could then deploy automatically a device that would slow us down enough that then at 10,000 feet, the 3 parachutes would come out, a little lower the pressure of the atmosphere outside was greater than inside, and we could smell the salt air and it was very encouraging to return to earth.
We didn't jettison the parachutes soon enough, so the impact on the water moved my fingers away from the circuit breakers, which had to be pushed in before Mike Collins, throwing the switch to jettison the parachutes, could take place! So the parachutes pulled us over, and allowed the spacecraft to float upside-down rather than right side up. Now the engineers were very surprised in the early testing of the spacecraft in water to discover that it would float upside-down as well as right-side up. So they devised a system of inflating big balloons that would then turn the spacecraft right-side up. We had to do that.
Was it more challenging to go through the training to become an astronaut, or to actually go to space?
Yes, it was challenging to understand what was necessary to successfully carry out all the training simulations that we, as crewmen, would experience, and make a very successful use of that training and education. Training was much more extensive, and we dealt with many recoveries from emergencies, and fortunately, participating and observing and existing through the reality of space was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it was not marred by unexpected hazards or catastrophes.