15 things Buzz Aldrin told us about visiting the moon

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk on the moon?  Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, hosted a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), and these are the 15 biggest takeaways.

1. Aldrin’s ability to describe the Moon is scary good.

thekelseyscott: “Is there any experience on Earth that even compares slightly to having been on the Moon?”

Aldrin: “My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was “Magnificent desolation.” The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream – achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate – there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.
Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away – no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up- but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.
That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.”

2. He’s been to the highest highs (the Moon) and the lowest lows (the bottom of the Ocean).

jackard9: “Mr Aldrin , what do you consider your biggest accomplishment that’s totally unrelated to space?”

Aldrin: “I was very close to the top of my class at West Point. And I continued to expand my understanding of the world around me, and the human evolutions here on earth, the achievements perhaps to other people are impressive when I tell them that not only have I been to the North Pole, I haven’t been to the South Pole yet, but I have been to the Titanic in a little yellow french submarine. It took an hour and a half just to sink down in the ocean about 2 miles deep to look out the thick glass window and see the Titanic. The visibility was such that we could see the bow, it became very famous in the movie thanks to James Cameron, but the visibility was not so good that you could actually see the bottom of the ocean that the Titanic was resting on. So it was an eerie site, of a ship festooned with rusting metal, like gingerbread. Floating, floating out the window in the Ocean.”

3. Aldrin regrets not being able to celebrate with the rest of the world when he stepped onto the Moon.

riptide747″ “Col Aldrin, what went through your head when you first looked back and saw the Earth from space?”

Aldrin: “‘Where are the billions and billions and billions of people, on what I’m looking at? We’re the only 3 that are not back there.’
And we didn’t get to celebrate. Because we were out of town.”
4. He would give a great motivational speech to the first manned mission to Mars.
DiegoVonCosmo: “If you had the opportunity to speak to the crew of the first manned mission to Mars prior to launch, what would you say to them?”

Aldrin: “Realize that you are perhaps the most ambitious, the most historical pioneers that the earth has produced since its beginning.
And you are given a great honor in spending the rest of your lives pioneering for mankind.

5. They had a problem when trying to rejoin the other spacecraft!

Coltephilos: “What’s the most frightening moment that you have ever experienced in space?”

Aldrin: “I believe it was after leaving the surface of the moon and completing a successful rendezvous with Mike Collins in the command module, as we approached connecting / docking, the procedures in the checklist said one thing, and I thought maybe doing it a slightly different way, rolling and pitching instead of something else, and I thought that was better on the spur of the moment! It turns out that it was not a good thing to do, because it caused the platform to become locked, and we were not able to use the primary thrusters, the primary guidance, to control the spacecraft, to its final few feet to dock and join the other spacecraft. That was my mistake. I suggested to my commander that we do it differently, and it was his mistake to assume that i knew what I was talking about. So we both made mistakes – brought about by me! We recovered successfully on the “abort guidance” system.
(I don’t admit that to many people)
(but I’m sure the mission controllers in Houston, while it was happening or certainly afterwards, they certainly knew what had happened, but fortunately they didn’t squeal on us)”

6. Aldrin wouldn’t go back…right now.

GWJNorm: “Hello Mr. Aldrin,
If you were given the opportunity to go to the Moon again, would you?”
Aldrin: “My intellect now, having been there, and developed, and thought about humans going to Mars, has been so intense and so very useful to the future, I think I need to continue to think and plan and marry all of the different things that we could do that make transportation in space from the earth to the space station, from the earth to the moon to space stations around the moon to visiting an asteroid, which the President said we should do – when he observed in 2010 in his first term that humans should visit an asteroid by 2025. And I believe we should do that again, but we should have a robot slowly conserving fuel, so that in 1, or 2 years, get there just after a crew has arrived on the same asteroids. Combining those 2 without a human being, and with a human being, each has significant limitations but when those are put together, on the same asteroid, you are able to do much, much more for that mission in 2025, or 2026, or 2027, than the present mission that NASA and some of Congress and some of the President’s office feel. So no – because I am needed here on earth to focus on opening up these opportunities, and also because the budget would not be there.”

7. Who stepped on the Moon first was NOT decided by Rock, Paper, Scissors…allegedly.

TheBen1818: “How did you guys decide who would walk on the moon first. Was it always going to be Neil from the beginning or was there some Rock Paper Scissors matches to decide?”

Aldrin: “I felt that there was an obligation on my part to put forth the reasons why a commander who had been burdened down with an enormous amount of responsibility and training for activities (and because of that, in all previous missions, if someone, a crew member, was to spacewalk, it was always the junior person, not the space commander who would stay inside). We knew this would be different because 2 people would be going out. There was a group at NASA who felt the junior person (me) should go out first, but many people felt the great symbology of the commander from past expeditions or arrivals at a destination. The decision that was made was absolutely correct as far as who went out first, symbolically. However who was in charge of the what happened after both people are outside, I believe, could have been done differently. I was not the commander, I was a junior person, so once both were outside, I followed my leader, because we (NASA) had not put together detailed jobs of people outside. I believe it could have been improved. But it was very successful for what it was. And the decision wasn’t up to me, or Neil, it was up to people much higher up in NASA.”

8. If you can’t make it to the Moon, the pictures aren’t bad.

shes-got-style: “Do the pictures of space do any justice to the real thing?”

Aldrin: “Yes, they do. They recall (for me) the actual experience of myself in space – not by words, not by print, but visual reminders, it brings back a very in-depth appreciation. They can be used very well for communicating in speeches, talks, and more to other people who can actually see what i saw and what the camera saw.”

9. He wanted to be Notre Dame’s quarterback and a pilot as a kid.

NedleyLamar: “You were what kids wanted to be when they grew up.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?”
Aldrin: “An aviator! A pilot! After I was a quarterback for Notre Dame.”

10. He tries not to deal with people who think the Moon landing was faked…except that one guy he punched in the face.

orangejulius: “How do you feel about people who claim you faked the moon landing?
Can you describe how the moon felt to you? (Was it an adrenaline rush when your feet hit the surface? Was it soft or hard? Could you feel temperature through the suit at all?)
Funniest moment during the mission to the moon and back?”
Aldrin: “I personally don’t waste very much of my time on what is so obvious to a really thinking person, of all the evidence – we talked about Carl Sagan recently, who made a very prophetic observation. He said that “extraordinary observations require extraordinary evidence to make them believable.” There is not extraordinary evidence of (as far as I know) all the claims that have been made that we did NOT go to the Moon. There are photographs from lunar reconnaissance orbiter satellites, going around the moon, that clearly show all of the experiments that we described when we came back from the moon, and they are evidence that we were there, telling the truth, you can even see a trail of Neil Armstrong’s trek (not footprints really but the stirred up dust in walking or jogging behind him) to see the west Crater that we had flown over, that Neil was concerned about landing close to that – and he took photos of that and then he went back to the spacecraft. I was back inside the spacecraft at this time, but looking at the photos of Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiters, you can clearly see the evidence of Neil’s trek. And he took photographs, and all the signs are still there. Our flag in Apollo 11 was, without the doubt, the best looking flag that was stuck on the moon. But it was close to the spacecraft, so when we lifted off, Neil observed that the rocket exhaust caused the flag to strike the ground, to fall over. And by this time, I’m sure the radiation in space has deteriorated every piece of cloth on the flags, whether they are flying on the surface or standing up. We perhaps in the future will have very accurate rovers that can approach the different landing sites, and perhaps make available to people back on earth the ability to control a video scan, get out elevations, with floodlights to illuminate during the 14 days of darkness – I believe this will be very inspiring to people back here on earth, if we have the funds to do that, it would be great to do that.
The space suit had a soft interior to the shoes, and when the boots got put over the shoes, there is much cushioning effect, and the light weight due to the reduced gravity and the thickness of the dust, made it difficult to sense the feel of the surface. it was so remarkable, the way the bootprints were left, with such strong definition of the soil underneath, like moist talcum powder I guess, it keeps its shape, so I photographed before and after, pictures of the surface, and then I thought that looked a little lonely, so I put another bootprint down, and moved my foot a little bit so you could see my foot and the bootprint.
I have since been told by a comic, by a humorist, what humor really is – but just as we were leaving the moon, I had given some thought to this, and I was able to create two achievements of humor in one sentence.
When Mission Control said, to us, as we were about to leave “Tranquility bass, you are cleared for liftoff,” I responded by saying to them “Roger, Houston, we are number one on the runway.”
There wasn’t anybody else for us to be 2, 3, 4 to! But there wasn’t any runway up there either!
It’s a phrase most pilots hear many times – “Roger Tower, acknowledge we are number 3 for takeoff on the runway” Because there are people waiting before us in an airplane to start take off. Pilots always get it. We are not going to roll ahead with increasing speed, we were going to lift off straight UP the way we left the earth!.”

11. Even Aldrin thinks Sandra Bullock deserves an Oscar for her performance in Gravity.

15chainz: “Mr. Aldrin, do you watch movies about people going to space, if so, which one is your favourite?”

Aldrin: “I have watched many movies from martians coming to Earth in New Jersey in the form of giant snakes – this was a radio program created by Orson Welles, War of the Worlds – and I’ve read many science fiction stories, descriptions, by Isaac Asimov, but my favorite of course is Arthur C. Clarke. So 2001: A Space Odyssey. And then later on, I managed to arrange a cruise ship departing from Sri Lanka where Clarke lived, and I was able to stay with him, talking about many, many things in the past. I wrote a book along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, called First on the Moon, and the epilogue was written by Arthur C. Clarke. When I wrote my book of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke wrote a one page forward that was OUTSTANDING, absolutely, as he praised our ingenuity and imagination. And when we visited, we talked about a treasure he had discovered in the ocean, and we both hoped in the future that he and I could scuba dive and perhaps retrieve some of that treasure. That never happened, unfortunately.
I thought that the movie Gravity, the depiction of people moving around in zero gravity, was really the best I have seen. The free-falling, the actions that took place between two people, were very, I think, exaggerated, but probably bent the laws of physics. But to a person who’s been in space, we would cringe looking at something that we hoped would NEVER, EVER Happen. It’s very thrilling for the person who’s never been there, because it portrays the hazards, the dangers that could come about if things begin to go wrong, and I think that as I came out of that movie, I said to myself and others, ‘Sandra Bullock deserves an Oscar.'”
12. He doesn’t think he saw aliens while aboard Apollo 11.
newbie12q: “Do you believe in aliens and what are the sightings you saw aboard Apollo 11?”

Aldrin: “On Apollo 11 in route to the Moon, I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us. There were many explanations of what that could be, other than another spacecraft from another country or another world – it was either the rocket we had separated from, or the 4 panels that moved away when we extracted the lander from the rocket and we were nose to nose with the two spacecraft. So in the close vicinity, moving away, were 4 panels. And i feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels. Which one? I don’t know. So technically, the definition could be “unidentified.”
We well understood exactly what that was. And when we returned, we debriefed and explained exactly what we had observed. And I felt that this had been distributed to the outside world, the outside audience, and apparently it wasn’t, and so many years later, I had the time in an interview to disclose these observations, on another country’s television network. And the UFO people in the United States were very very angry with me, that i had not given them the information. It was not an alien. Extraordinary observations require extraordinary evidence. That’s what Carl Sagan said. There may be aliens in our Milky Way galaxy, and there are billions of other galaxies. The probability is almost CERTAIN that there is life somewhere in space. It was not that remarkable, that special, that unusual, that life here on earth evolved gradually, slowly, to where we are today.
But the distances involved in where some evidence of life may be, they may be hundreds of light years away.”

13. He has his own video game in Europe.

packet_splatter: “Thank you for doing the AMA!
Ever find time for computer games like Kerbal Space Program? I’ve gotten 3 kids more interested in math and science after showing it to them.
Have a fantastic day!”
Aldrin: “I have inspired my own video games, 10, 20, 30 years ago, and now there is in Europe a video challenge, a video activity, entitled “Buzz Aldrin’s Space Program Manager.” And there game players can build their own space program from the beginning, and from where we are now on into the future, with some of the components that I believe will make great progress in our transportation systems between the Earth and the Moon and Mars in a long-standing reusable way into the future. I’ll have to check out Kerbal Space Program.”

14. He knows what he would have said if he had walked on the Moon first.

garysnorf7: “Hello Mr. Aldrin! If it was you, not Neil, who took the first steps on the moon, what would you have said?”

Aldrin: “I think the words that he used, about the actions of the moment, and what they meant, in the future or for the greater understanding of mankind, were somewhat similar to my words that were spur of the moment. His ‘giant leap for mankind’ and my observation of the desolation and magnificence that was on the moon, viewed by any individual who would look out and observe with their eyes, the actual visual confirmation of what we intellectually understood we were looking at – but to actually see – something so unlike anything that could be observed on earth. It was “what can one person do” and “what do we know about earth.””

15. Aldrin says men should travel to Mars.

iamaAMAfan: “Hello Mr. Aldrin!
Our nation and our world have been waiting for another monumental achievement by humanity ever since you were a pioneer in the space race and set foot on the Moon. For lack of any serious government effort, I’m rooting for Elon Musk to accomplish this by sending man to Mars. What advice would you give Elon to achieve the ultimate objective of permanence on Mars?”
Aldrin: “There is very little doubt, in my mind, that what the next monumental achievement of humanity will be the first landing by an Earthling, a human being, on the planet Mars. And I expect that within 2 decades of the 5th anniversary of the first landing on the moon, that within 2 decades America will lead an international presence on Planet Mars. Some people may be rooting for Elon – I think he could, with his SpaceX, contribute considerably, enormously, to an international activity not only at the moon but also on Mars. I have considered whether a landing on Mars could be done by the private sector. It conflicts with my very strong idea, concept, conviction, that the first human beings to land on Mars should not come back to Earth. They should be the beginning of a build-up of a colony / settlement, I call it a “permanence.” A settlement you can visit once or twice, come back, and then decide you want to settle. Same with a colony. But you want it to be permanent from the get-go, from the very first. I know that many people don’t feel that that should be done. Some people even consider it distinctly a suicide mission. Not me! Not at all. Because we will plan, we will construct from the moon of Mars, over a period of 6-7 years, the landing of different objects at the landing site that will be brought together to form a complete Mars habitat and laboratory, similar to what has been done at the Moon. Tourism trips to Mars and back are just not the appropriate way for human beings from Earth – to have an individual company, no matter how smart, send people to mars and bring them back, it is VERY very expensive. It delays the obtaining of permanence, internationally. Your question referred to a monumental achievement by humanity – that should not be one private company at all, it should be a collection of the best from all the countries on Earth, and the leader of the nation or the groups who makes a commitment to do that in 2 decades will be remembered throughout history, hundreds and thousands of years in the future of the history of humanity, beginning, commencing, a human occupation of the solar system.”