His mother’s maiden name was Moon. Buzz Aldrin, it seems, was destined from birth to travel to the rocky sphere more than 200,000 miles from planet Earth.
Today he says of being on the moon: “I was exhilarated but guarded. . . . I knew that our every move and word were on display to the entire world, even though we were the only living creatures within a quarter of a million miles.”
While walking on the moon, Aldrin uttered the words “magnificent desolation,” describing the monochromatic vastness of the cratered surface.
Those words became the title of his new memoir, in which he lays bare his adult life -- from Apollo 11 and beyond.
The return to Earth was hard. Alcoholism, depression and divorce riddled his post-moonwalk life.
He considers the wherewithal to climb out of dark moments among his great triumphs, he writes.
Aldrin, now 79, has written children’s books and science fiction, and made documentaries.
He’s even tried his hand at rapping, recently laying down tracks with Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli: “Moonwalking is such a trip,” he says at the microphone, accompanied by background crooners.
Aldrin talked about his new book, his Twitter feed and the possibility of living on Mars.
What’s your life like now?
It’s busier than it’s ever been. That includes training and isolated appearances.
You spent 21 hours on the moon. Do you ever wish you could go back?
No. I went there once and had the lucky brass ring. I was at the right place at the right time. Combined with the turmoil I had returning to the Air Force and having to deal with other inherited and cultivated traits, it was a tough return.
What’s the future of the U.S. space program?
Without a doubt, I think I have the prescribed plan of what we should do now in the space program. When you have a fork in the road, you take it. We had a fork in the road with the Columbia accident.
We learned lessons from that accident, and the implementation of those lessons is the road to take.
The first time, we got to the moon too soon because we were in a race with the Soviets. It was continuous and there was no gap -- from Sputnik to Apollo. Now, after the Challenger and Columbia, it’s as if we have said: That’s enough! We have to take our experience and go to the next level.
In one of your chapters you envision space hotels on Mars. Do you think human beings could live on Mars? Should we send people there?
Absolutely. We need to accumulate people there. Just like the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, we need to settle Mars. We could have human intelligence in orbit around Mars, building things there.
Ideally, we’d send people there in intervals and they’d stay there 1 1/2 years at a time and come back.
Think about it. The leader of a group of people on Earth -- whoever the leader is -- who establishes a settlement of humans on another planet. That’s huge.
Much bigger than two people holding nuclear weapons to each other’s heads.
Mars is much closer to the characteristics of Earth. It has a fall, winter, summer and spring. North Pole, South Pole, mountains and lots of ice. No one is going to live on Venus; no one is going to live on Jupiter.
You rapped with Snoop Dogg. What made you do it?
I want to reach a new generation. That’s why I am Twittering now. I have a BlackBerry, an iPhone and a Mac.
My favorite music is Karen Carpenter, but people are into this rap. So I thought maybe I could work a deal where I could have some space experts appreciate rap and have the rappers understand space.
I kind of learned the words and picked up the rhythm and I got some advice from experts like Snoop Dogg and others. I was rapping about space exploration. “All you need is a rocket experience!” That’s the chorus. We had a ball, and we’re getting a lot of reaction from Twittering.
“Magnificent Desolation” covers your life after returning from the moon. You even ask: “What does a man do for an encore after walking on the moon?” You were only 39 at the time of your return. What was going through your head?
“Magnificent Desolation” -- I was a little hesitant about that title. Originally we thought, “The Real Buzz” or just “Buzz.” I didn’t want [the title] to make my life sound a like a big glittering nothing. The book is really about the long journey home. It encapsulates what it is like coming back to being an Earthling. I was on my own, not knowing what to do.
There’s a love story in the book.
Yeah, I’d been a bachelor for 10 years and I was getting tired of looking around. I decided that I’d been living in West L.A., but I really liked the ocean, and so I wanted to move to Laguna. I purchased a condominium down there.
One Friday night, I went to a singles event on the beach in L.A. That’s where I met Lois. I asked her for a date. She said, “No, you don’t want to go out with me, I live in Laguna.” And I said, “Well, I’m moving there tomorrow!”
What is your greatest wish for future generations in terms of space travel, science and future discoveries? What about the kids out there who still want to be astronauts?
It appears to me that we have a generation coming along that’s confused and not sure what they should focus on. It seems they think: What’s in it for me? It seems that Wall Street just did that very same thing in a very professional way, and it got us in a lot of trouble.
It seems there are many chasing the cash wagon.
Maybe this recession is bringing some things to light -- there’s more to life than accumulating as much wealth as you possibly can.
For the future, primarily, we must educate people in science, engineering, technology and math.