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Second man on the Moon turns 80

January 30, 2010 - UNITED STATES

Buzz (Edwin) Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, turns 80 a few months after the 40th anniversary of the feat. The former NASA astronaut, whose achievements include the first extravehicular space walk, in 1966, could use his 80th birthday spotlight to reiterate his objections to NASA's plans to return to the Moon: He wants NASA aiming instead for Mars. He could also speak out about coping with being second, not first, on the Moon, a challenge he writes about in the autobiography Magnificent Desolution.

Buzz (Edwin) Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, turns 80 a few months after the 40th anniversary of the feat. The former NASA astronaut, whose achievements include the first extravehicular space walk, in 1966, could use his 80th birthday spotlight to reiterate his objections to NASA's plans to return to the Moon: He wants NASA aiming instead for Mars. He could also speak out about coping with being second, not first, on the Moon, a challenge he writes about in "Magnificent Desolution." On 20 Jul 1969, Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their historic Apollo 11 moonwalk, becoming the first two humans to set foot on another world. They spent 21 hours on the lunar surface, watched by a world record television audience of some 600 million people. The current NASA plan, developed in the wake of the 2003 Columbia accident, is for the agency to complete the space station, return astronauts to the Moon and eventually move on to Mars and other destinations in the solar system. Detailing his objections to NASA's plans recently, Aldrin argues that NASA's Vision for Space Exploration is "a glorified rehash of what we did 40 years ago." Instead of a steppingstone to Mars," he explained, "NASA's current lunar plan is a detour" that will derail our Mars effort and siphon off money and engineering talent for the next two decades. Selected by NASA in 1963 into the third group of astronauts, Aldrin was the first with a doctorate and became known as "Dr. Rendezvous." The docking and rendezvous techniques he devised for spacecraft in Earth and lunar orbit became critical to the success of the Gemini and Apollo programs, and are still used today. He also pioneered underwater training techniques as a substitute for zero gravity flights and to simulate spacewalking. In "Magnificent Desolation," his autobiography, he wrote that he "found it hard to deal with the fame of being unrecognised" because of being second and started to drink heavily. "I was working for a car dealership under the slogan, "Buy a secondhand car from the second man on the moon." The book is one of two biographies. The other is Return to Earth (1973). The Long Journey Home from the Moon (2009, with Ken Abraham). He also wrote a history of the Apollo program, Men from Earth (1989, with Malcolm McConnell), and two children's books, Reaching for the Moon (2005) and Look to the Stars (2009). Sep/09

Buzz Aldrin (Encyclopedia Britannica)

"Magnificent Desolution" book review (Guardian 14 Jul 2009)

Time to Boldly Go Once More (Washington Post 16 Jul 2009)

Date written/update: 2010-01-30