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INTERVIEW: Buzz Aldrin to speak in Decatur on Sept. 11

Astronaut Edwin E. 'Buzz' Aldrin Jr. posed for a photograph beside a U.S. flag on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. AP photo by Neil Armstrong.

Buzz Aldrin is famously known as the second man on the moon, and as the public face of space travel and research for 40 years. Still, we can never hear enough about how it looked, tasted, smelled and felt to walk on ground away from Earth.

Aldrin will discuss the new book in Decatur on Friday.

“Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon,” a new autobiography written with Ken Abraham, details not just the journey to and from the moon, but what came after: fame, uncertainty, alcohol addiction, recovery, love and new ideas about what we ought to do in space.

Aldrin, 79, will discuss and sign the book at Blue Elephant Book Shop in Decatur on Friday. In an interview, here’s what he had to say about his life on Earth.

On how the new book differs from the 1973 autobiography, “Return to Earth”: “I was involved in the first of many recoveries. That was not in the first autobiography. That wasn’t a really well-known fact. It takes a bit of concerted effort to go through that process. Now I have 30 years of sobriety, about 23 years ago, I met Lois, and we’ve been married for 21 years. That’s been key to my increasing stability.”

On addiction and recovery: “I can try to live a life that avoids it. It’s a very active life, and I think I probably wouldn’t be any near as effective as I think I am now had I not gone through that. It would have occurred sooner or later, I’m sure, no matter what career field I followed. The strongly structured life I led at West Point, the Air Force and NASA, goal-oriented toward perfection, achievement and status — I reached the pinnacle in my career, this apex, and descended down into the desolation of escapism, non-functioning status, until I began to recognize the need to work with others toward my own recovery. No one is ever immune from the onset of depression.”

On post-flight fame: “I experienced some of that in the aftermath of my first space flight. The public exposure, though heartening, and I felt appreciative for all the displays, for all the support — I didn’t relish being a part of that for the rest of my life. When it became clear I was assigned to, potentially, the first lunar landing, I shared with my first wife, Joan, that given the choice, I would’ve just as soon have been on a later flight. That choice wasn’t at all available. Had I made that suggestion, it probably would have resulted in no flight at all.”

On returning to the moon: “We’re in a position of re-evaluation. What is the worth of sending U.S. astronauts back to the moon? Should we take our experience and help other nations do what they’d like to do? With our leadership and experience, but not our heavy resources, let’s help.”

On exploration and settlement of Mars: “It’s the destination, I think, that can satisfy us for 50 or 100 years. Mars is far more habitable than the moon. I think history would say something was amiss if we could land on the moon that rapidly, but then stall out in our reinforcement of our capabilities by not continuing to have human settlers on a location as promising as Mars.”

On joyful living after walking on the moon: “I’ve been SCUBA diving since I was 27, 28 years old and I continue to do that. I’ve had the opportunity to dive in a submersible under the Titanic. I traveled to the North Pole, and next December, to the South Pole. I’ve got a 60th anniversary of my class at West Point. It’s a busy life.”

Want to go? Buzz Aldrin will discuss and sign “Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon.” 7 p.m. Friday. Ticket free with purchase of Aldrin’s book from Blue Elephant Book Shop, 2091 N. Decatur Road in Decatur. 404-728-8955,

4 comments Add your comment


September 11th, 2009
8:32 pm

Sorry, Shannon, but the Mercury 13 were not fired from any NASA program. Their training was privately funded and they were never employed by NASA as astronaut candidates.

Jamie Gumbrecht

September 10th, 2009
12:41 am

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing!

[...] Buzz Aldrin discusses “Magnificent Desolation,” 7 p.m., Blue Elephant Book Shop, Decatur. [...]

Shannon, M.Div.

September 9th, 2009
9:22 pm

It’s such a shame that our early space program is marred by sexism. Female pilots such as Jerrie Cobb were outperforming the men in 1961’s astronaut training. They were highly qualified, but they were all summarily fired from the program with no explanation. Congress held hearings on it–but Congress at that time was still a boys’ club. Quotes like this one ruled the day: “The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order.” That quote, of course, is from John Glenn’s testimony.

Always remember the Mercury 13. For me, it forever taints the achievements of the early boys who made it into space and walked on the moon. They didn’t trust themselves to compete against women, so they went behind the scenes and had the women taken out.

The worst travesty, of course, was sending Glenn back instead of Cobb in 1998 (Cobb made a strong push for the opportunity that had been denied her).

Here’s a nice, succinct summary of the events:

For those who are interested, there’s plenty of information on the ‘Net, including detailed quotes from the horrifying Congressional hearings.