My new book, "Beyond Flagpoles and Footprints: Pioneering the Space Frontier with Buzz Aldrin" — now available on Amazon and Kindle — chronicles a great global adventure.
This story invites readers on a bold journey of exploration from humankind's first practical conjurers and creators of means to escape tethering bonds of Earth's gravity, through applications of those accomplishments for welfare and warfare, and along cycling trajectories to unbounded and transformative futures.
The book also represents a very special personal and professional voyage with Buzz, the product of a close friendship full of endless conversations dating back more than four decades, addressing how global space developments have profoundly influenced our worst fears, highest hopes, and where they might lead.
Intended both for general audiences with interests and curiosity about space and professionals with related business and technical backgrounds, the book offers a comprehensive and readable history of key evolutionary international visionaries and events, progressing through contemporary government programs and private enterprises, and leading to "Buzzwords" that explore possible futures.
Included among these countless trailblazers are a prescient 19th century small village Russian mathematics schoolteacher named Konstantin Tsiolkovsky who envisioned "rocket trains" (the concept of stageable rockets even before rocketry existed) that led to virtually everything that followed.
American "father of the liquid-fueled rocket" Robert Goddard proved that spaceflight could be more than a dream; NASA Apollo program's great engineer, John Houbolt, came up with the bold idea of "lunar orbit rendezvous" that applied Tsiolkovsky's staged rocketry to deliver the first humans to the Moon and back; private entrepreneur Elon Musk demonstrated that rocket first stages can be recycled to make spaceflight more resourcefully sustainable; and Buzz conceptualized Aldrin Cyclers, rocket trains operating on endless round-trip orbital tracks that lead to future destinations of human exploration and evolution that our children and theirs will one day pioneer to Mars and destinations beyond.
Conceived in minds of such dreamers and doers and gestated in wombs of governments during times of international conflict and collaboration, humankind gave birth to innovative marvels that have forever changed our lives and possibilities in recently unimaginable ways.
Orbiting satellites have erased global communication boundaries; spawned a transformative internet information-sharing network; monitored natural and man-made efforts that affect our safety; coordinated and guided air and surface transportation movements; and have supported international business opportunities and technological breakthroughs that continue to enhance the quality of our everyday lives.
In total, these advancements have expanded human experience while making our world seem smaller, and in many ways, also more dangerous and uncertain, a nexus of politically manipulated and ideologically shifting national rivalries between civilization's greatest hopes and fears.
Perhaps no individual better symbolically exemplifies this contentious contradiction than Nazi German V-2 rocket "buzz bomb" developer Wernher von Braun who later led the American engineering effort that created the behemoth Saturn V rocket that launched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon's surface, while Apollo 11 teammate Michael Collins waited in lunar orbit.
Add to this tyranny versus triumph irony von Braun's Soviet rocketry rival, "Chief Designer" Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, who barely survived brutal imprisonment under Stalin to achieve historic launches of Sputnik, the first Earth-orbiting man-made object, and first human, Yuri Gagarin.
And yes, America's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions to put the first humans on the Moon were very much a great "space race" with Russia.
My life has been richly honored to later come to know Buzz, Neil, and numerous others who paved the way and followed their dusty footsteps as close personal friends and colleagues, along with many of their former Soviet competitors.
On May 25, 1961, only a few weeks after Gagarin's orbital flight, President John Kennedy upped the ante, committing the U.S. to send a man to the Moon and return him safely before the end of that decade.
He rallied the country to that cause, saying: "... no single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish ... in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the Moon — if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."
America did that, and even better ... putting four of our citizens on the lunar surface and returning them by 1969, plus delivered two more into lunar orbit who returned with them. Within three more years, eight others had walked on the Moon on successful round-trip voyages, along with four more orbital companions.
Some of those same Apollo astronauts, and many daring predecessors, literally blazed that pathway. They flew on two suborbital and four Earth-orbital Mercury launches, nine Earth-orbital Gemini flights, two Earth-orbital Apollo tests, and two lunar-orbital tests that made those lunar surface landings possible.
And that was only the very beginning.
Since then, the world has witnessed orbiting American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts embracing in peace high above the Atlantic Ocean as a cold war raged below; the birth of Earth-orbiting stations created and occupied by cooperating nations; space tourists launched by enormously innovative private entrepreneurs; and automated rovers taking selfies on surfaces of the Moon and our next new human destination.
As Buzz emphatically puts it, "Our next giant leap forward should establish permanent human presence on Mars."
Endowed Professor of Space Architecture Larry Bell founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and Graduate Program in Space Architecture at the University of Houston. Larry, former NASA Johnson Space Center Chief, Engineer Max Faget, and two other partners also co-founded Space Industries Inc., where Neil Armstrong and the first two retired NASA JSC Directors served as board members. Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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