Tag Archives: Buzz Aldrin

Another NASA celebrity astronaut leaves us

There once was a time when astronauts were celebrities. We knew their names. We followed their careers. We got up early to watch them blast off from the Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad.

Another such astronaut — and please pardon this intended pun — has left this Earth for keeps. Alan Bean died today at age 86.

He was the fourth man to walk on the moon, aboard Apollo 12 in November 1969. He made the flight to the lunar surface with the late Charles “Pete” Conrad.

Alan Bean didn’t achieve the kind of celebrity status of, say, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, the seven men selected to fly in the initial Mercury missions, or most of the Gemini astronauts who came along later.

Bean was among those picked for the third group of space pioneers, the Apollo program. He joined NASA in 1963 after serving as a Navy test pilot.

My years in the Texas Panhandle makes me remind you that Bean hailed from that part of the world. He was a native of Wheeler, a tiny town east of Amarillo.

My most glaring memory of Bean’s time on the moon stems from some innovative measures he took to deploy a camera on the lunar surface. The camera wouldn’t start taking images. What did Bean do? He grabbed a hammer and beat on the device! Then it worked.

NASA doesn’t have a manned space program of its own these days. We’re sending our astronauts into space aboard Russian rockets. I’m trying to imagine how Presidents Kennedy and Johnson would react to that bit of aerospace irony.

Back in the day, though, Alan Bean was among those individuals we prayed for when they rocketed into space. As President Kennedy said about the goal of sending astronauts to the moon and returning them safely, “We don’t do these things because they are easy. We do them because they are hard.”

Alan Bean and his colleagues just made it look easy. It wasn’t. He needed to beat on a state-of-the-art camera with a hammer to enable the device to record his history-making adventure for the rest of time.

May he now rest eternally.

Wishing for a return to full-fledged space travel

It was 48 years ago. A giant rocket sat on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla.. Perched atop that beastly Saturn rocket was a space ship carrying three men.

They would make history a few days later on that Apollo 11 mission. But on July 16, 1969, they launched into the sky, took off into orbit, then fired those on-board rockets to propel them to the moon.

The late Neil Armstrong set foot first on the moon. A little while later, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin hopped off the ladder onto the sandy lunar soil. Meanwhile, their crewmate Michael Collins circled above, orbiting moon.

The world — the entire planet — held its breath as Armstrong proclaimed he was taking “one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.” We cheered, cried and prayed for their safe return.

Space travel hadn’t yet become “routine,” as if it ever should have been thought of in that light. The Apollo missions would put several more men on the moon. Then we would have Skylab and then the shuttle program.

They’re all gone now. All those missions are history. Yes, Americans are still flying into space, but they’re doing so aboard Russian rockets. Try to imagine how President Kennedy would feel about that!

I am old enough to remember the old days. I also am young enough at heart to wish for the day we can return yet again to full-fledged space travel — even though it’s never routine.

If only Buzz Aldrin would tell us

Oh, how I wish I could read minds.

This video is making the Internet rounds. Donald Trump is talking about space travel. The fellow on the right is none other than Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, one of two men who walked on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

A lot of would-be mind readers are conjecturing about what Aldrin might be thinking. He looks alternately bemused, confused, aghast and flabbergasted at what he’s hearing from the president of the United States.

Oh well. I just wanted to share it here. You be the judge on what is going through Buzz Aldrin’s mind.

Might there be someone who can ask the space hero what he was thinking? Would he tell us the truth? Hey, it’s worth asking.

How do you prepare for a trip … to Mars?


Space travel always has intrigued me.

I wanted to fly into space. Indeed, I applied once for NASA’s “journalist in space” program, hoping the space agency would pick me to be the first working journalist to report from Earth orbit.

The program ended on Jan. 28, 1986, when the shuttle Challenger blew up, killing all seven crew members — including the first teacher ever chosen for a space mission.

Well, we’ve been to the moon. Twelve men walked on its surface, making them quite an exclusive club of adventurers; there should have been 14 of them, except that Apollo 13 didn’t make it to the moon’s surface.

One of those men was interviewed by the AARP magazine and was asked about a possible — if not probable — flight to Mars.

Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, said the greatest danger facing those who land on Mars will be “mental status. It is the growing isolation, the irritation, the realization that this is the way it’s going to be.”

Think about Aldrin, by the way, for just a moment. Does anyone know off the top of their head the name of the second person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean? Or the second person to break the sound barrier in a jet? Most of us, though, do know the name of the second man to walk on the moon. Hey, I’m just thinking out loud for a moment.

I’ve tried to ponder over the years as a Mars mission became more of a probability: How does NASA find the right person to participate in a mission that will take years to complete?

What in the world does the space agency ask the prospective candidate?

How will you cope with knowing you’re going to be many millions of miles from Earth? How willing are you to accept the possibility that you might not return home? The moon missions were a relatively simple mission compared to this one; do you have what it takes to spend years in a space suit?

I guess I am intrigued by the psychological makeup of the individuals chosen to make this journey.

Aldrin has written that we could land on Mars by 2040. Let me see: I’ll be 91 by then. That’s too old to make the trip.

However, if my luck holds out, I’ll be around to see it and if my luck is even better, I’ll have enough of my marbles still intact to know and appreciate what’s happening in real time.

Aldrin thinks the commitment to land on Mars will come during the next president’s administration. “The next president,” he told AARP, “will use the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions to say the U.S. will lead international efforts to land on Mars within two decades.”

I pray that he’s right.


‘The Eagle has landed’

I might be the only person in America who did not watch Apollo 11 land on the moon via CBS News’s legendary coverage of the event.

I was tuned in that day to NBC News. I heard the late Frank McGee intone, simply: “Man … is on the moon.”

But the link here is of the CBS coverage of the event, which occurred 46 years ago today.

It brings to mind this simple truth: We grew complacent about space travel over the years.

We launched a space race to the moon with the then-Soviet Union. President Kennedy had declared in 1961 that the goal would to be to “put a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. We got there in the seventh month of the final year of that decade.

It was an exciting time. It was fraught with peril. But we knew that and at some level accepted the risk as part of the grand strategy, the goal. We had to beat those dreaded Soviets and by golly, we did!

The lunar program would end in 1972. NASA couldn’t justify spending so much money on missions that had grown — this is he word they used — “routine.”

There could be nothing routine about putting human beings atop a flaming rocket carrying thousands of pounds of fuel and sending them into outer space.

Tragedy would strike later. We’d go through the Skylab program. Then came the shuttle missions. Challenger blew apart on Jan. 28, 1986, killing all seven crew members. On Feb. 1, 2003, Columbia disintegrated on its return from space, killing seven more crew members.

Routine? Hardly.

But on that glorious summer day in 1969, two men — the late Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin — had us holding our breath as they walked into history.

Look what they found in moon walker's closet!

Neil Armstrong: smuggler.

It has a fascinating ring to it. Who would have thought the nation’s premier space hero, daredevil test pilot, the first man to ever walk on the moon would have squirreled away some artifacts from humankind’s most daring adventure?

The First Man on the Moon died in 2012, and his widow, Carol, has uncovered a trove of goodies she discovered in his closet.


I think it’s quite cool that he managed to sneak this stuff past his NASA bosses.

The artifacts were supposed to have crashed into the moon, along with the Apollo 11 lunar lander, which Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left behind in lunar orbit in July 1969 when they hooked up with Michael Collins in the command module. Armstrong, though, brought the items home with him.

They include a camera used to take pictures on the moon as well as some gizmos and gadgets that had been stuffed into a bag and placed in Armstrong’s closet.

Hey, these items aren’t secret weapons, nor do they require some kind of top-secret clearance to handle.

I can recall coming home from the Army in 1970 with some items I was supposed to turn into the quartermaster’s office as I was transitioning back to civilian life. I still have my trusty entrenching tool, issued to me in 1968 and, by golly, I still use it around the yard. I can’t recall how I got it past the supply sergeant back then.


Mrs. Armstrong’s discovery has been turned over to the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, where I’m sure it’ll be put on proper display.

It’s a pretty cool discovery.