Tags: Hollywood | apollo | armstorng | cold war | moon | nasa

Buzz Aldrin: A Man Second to None

the apollo 11 mission module

The Apollo 11 mission module in Alameda, San Francisco Bay. (Dreamstime)

By Monday, 29 October 2018 11:31 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Many people worldwide know of Buzz Aldrin as the second human to walk on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969 with companion Neil Armstrong and Mike Collins, who orbited above. I prefer to regard him as one of the first two people to walk on the moon. Both have been friends and post-Apollo professional colleagues whom I deeply admire.

Two of my recent articles have criticized the movie "First Man" for what I regard to be very misleading and unfair characterizations of America’s first human moon landing. For starters, it obfuscated a magnificently larger story about how a Cold War space race rallied and demonstrated national exceptionalism.

Second, in exclusively featuring Neil, it also neglected to deservingly credit the comparably heroic and historic accomplishments of his mission partner.

To begin, Buzz Aldrin was born in 1930 in Montclair, New Jersey to Eugene and Marion Aldrin. Perhaps providently, his mother’s maiden name was Moon. Tragically, Marion Aldrin took her own life the year before her son went to the moon.

His father, Eugene, was an engineer and aviation pioneer who inspired Buzz to pursue dreams of flying. Eugene, a personal friend of Charles Lindbergh and Orville Wright, had served with the Army Air Corps during World War II.

Although his dad had urged him to attend the Naval Academy, some friends influenced Buzz, then 17 years old, to choose West Point instead. Upon graduating third in his class he entered the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Buzz trained as an F-86 swept-wing fighter pilot, flew 66 combat missions, and shot down two MiG-15 aircraft over the Yalu River.

After the war Buzz flew F-100s carrying nuclear weapons while stationed in Germany. This was a time during the late 1950s when the Cold War was escalating between the Soviet Union and United States. A new "space age" had been initiated with an October 1957 Russian launch of a tiny orbiting satellite called "Sputnik."

Buzz later decided to pursue a doctorate of science in astronautics at MIT, his father’s alma mater. His graduation thesis, "Guidance for Manned Orbital Rendezvous," applied his experience as a fighter pilot in intercepting enemy aircraft to develop orbital techniques which would enable spacecraft to come together in space.

Dr. Aldrin’s MIT studies and recreational scuba diving activities came in particularly handy following his selection as a Project Gemini astronaut. During a 4-day November 1966 Gemini 12 mission with James Lovell, he established a record five and one-half hour-long spacewalk.

Buzz subsequently introduced "weightlessness" training as a standard astronaut protocol in a special underwater buoyancy facility at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Buzz and Neil later trained together as the backup crew for Apollo 8 which orbited the moon around Christmastime in 1968. They were subsequently assigned, along with Mike Collins, to be the primary Apollo 11 crew in early January 1969.

The rest, as they say, is history. On July 20, 1969 - about 110 hours following their launch – an estimated 600 million people in 47 countries witnessed the first-ever televised images of two Americans who had arrived together on the surface of the moon.

Very fortunately, divine providence never called upon the Nixon White House to release a secret internal statement which had been prepared just in case the mission didn’t end well. Titled "In Event of Moon Disaster," it said, "Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace."

It went on to say, "There is no hope of recovery," and added, "In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of men."

Dr. Buzz Aldrin tirelessly continues to advocate that the U.S. must set its next trajectory on Mars — not just as a place to plant more footprints and flagpoles — but as a permanent destination. In doing so, the moon will provide an excellent testbed to practice and perfect technologies and operational techniques that will be critical for survival on the Mars surface.

Why should we set such challenges? Because, as Buzz points out, "It reminds the public that nothing is impossible if free people work together to accomplish great things. It captures the imagination of our youth, it fuels the American workforce and economy with high technology jobs, and it fosters peaceful and beneficial international collaborations to ensure U.S. foreign policy leadership."

Now, as we approach Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary, Buzz urges us to realize that we are at an important inflection point in human history. "America must once again dare to pursue big dreams . . . Our Apollo days were a time when we did bold things, achieving leadership. Now is our time to be bold again in space."

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including “Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations” (2018), “Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), “Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self” (2016), and "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles."Click Here Now.

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The movie "First Man" obfuscated a magnificently larger story about how a Cold War space race rallied and demonstrated national exceptionalism. In exclusively featuring Neil Armstrong, it also neglected to rightfully credit the accomplishments of his mission partner.
apollo, armstorng, cold war, moon, nasa
Monday, 29 October 2018 11:31 AM
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