Buzz Aldrin Answers Your Questions
Last week, we solicited your questions for former astronaut and second man on the moon Buzz Aldrin, and we asked him a few of our own:
What’s one thing most people don’t know about the Apollo 11 mission?
No matter what you say you saw, people are going to look for their moment of glory by disputing it. I didn’t expect at our first public appearance as a crew [after returning from the Apollo 11 mission] that students would throw eggs at us.
What was the most difficult part of the mission?
Dealing with the aftermath. Your life changes because of the significance of being put on a historical pedestal and the demands of answering questions like “what did it feel like?” “what were your emotions?” and other vague questions. To tell them that I took a leak on the moon jazzes up interest, but it doesn’t answer the question. I was able to fabricate an answer that might be satisfying to the questioner, but it may not be truth at all. It still happens today, 40 years later.
What’s your favorite sci-fi movie?
Here are Aldrin’s answers to your questions. Thanks to him and to all of you for the fine questions.
You’ve been the most prominent former astronaut of any era of the American space program. Why do you think so few other astronauts have become vocal advocates for science and space exploration? Why was it important for you to do it? — Noadi
I can’t answer for the other people. My interest has always been looking at the big picture and the future. At MIT, I was always looking for improvements I could investigate; ever since, I felt that my expertise is in devising new and different ways of doing things. My intuition and experience have given me an understanding; I probably have absorbed way more than any of the other earlier astronauts.
[At first] I guess I was somewhat naive and awed by the enormity of the things we were involved in. I wasn’t that sure of myself. Then I began to see I could have insights on how to do things differently; but I had to have open mind and accept criticism.
What factors would you consider most important when selecting people
to make policy about future space programs? In your experience, are astronauts good policy makers? — Charlie Wood
I think the policy makers must be visionary, long-term thinkers. Politicians are not good long-term policy makers. Generally speaking, astronauts do not have the breadth of overall experience.
My uninformed observation is that the initial “moon shot” took a WWII view of personal risk (i.e., in war, sometimes people die). Modern missions seem very unwilling to take risks with lives. What do you think of this current balance? — Jonathan
I think there’s a lot of tendency in new generations to avoid risk in professions that are highly regarded, like serving your country in the military. The sensationalism of risk is greatly overplayed by the media. In my opinion, military training is the best training one could have for the risks involved in space flight.
What do you believe are the biggest hardships in designing a space module which can sustain long stays on the moon or any extra-terrestrial surface? — Matt Cocuzzo
Radiation protection is number one; body conditioning of astronauts is number two. Then we worry about transporting enough consumables for sustained nourishment and life support.
Do you see anyone out there today among the big-name or small-name industrialists who could make space exploration profitable in a serious way (minerals, energy, etc.; not just tourism), or is it too far in the future at this point? What industry do you think it will be in? — Joe
It depends on what’s considered profitable. National survival is pretty high on my list. That was the result of the space program: we brought about the end of the Cold War.
National security goes along with the development of the aerospace industry. Orbital flight is what people eventually want to do. Electric power from space is a long-term, high-potential solution to our energy problems.
The world watched you on July 20, 1969. Now the media is interested in the space program only when there’s been a disaster. Is it better for the space program to have all of the media exposure and the pressure, or, without it, a lack of public interest? — Jim
I think the entire populace needs to look at longer-term consequences, and the responsibility of the media is exceptionally critical in this regard.
[Continuing space exploration] requires a more educated and enlightened populace — especially the younger generations. We can change views by exposing more people to the potential of gradual experiences of space flight, and that’s the purpose of my nonprofit, ShareSpace.
How do you respond to people who say that moon missions were faked? — Jim
These are selfish people looking for attention, and they prey on the gullibility of an uninformed public.