Meeting An American Hero

Over the weekend I met one of my childhood heroes. Actually, Buzz Aldrin is more than that. He’s an American hero. For my kids’ generation, Aldrin may be better known as one of the celebrities on “Dancing With The Stars”. But as a 12 year old boy who dreamed of the real stars, the summer of ’69 was a magical time. Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and NASA starred in their own reality TV show. “Walk On The Moon” offered a little more awe-inspiring suspense and drama than “DWTS” ever will.

Aldrin was mobbed by admirers at the Aviator Ball at Tulsa’s Air and Space Museum. And I was suddenly star-struck. So I didn’t get a chance to ask him the questions that have been bottled up tighter than a Gemini capsule the past 40 years.

  • “What was it like to kick up some moon dust?”
  • “Were you scared to float around in space?”
  • “How was the view of earth from 250,000 miles up?”
  • “Were you upset that Armstrong stepped off that ladder before you?”

And questions of more recent significance.

  • “What direction should the U.S. space program head next?”
  • “Back to the moon? Mars? Beyond?”

Aldrin is very opinionated about how those last questions will be answered by President Obama’s NASA budget. Just before I met him, Aldrin wrote an article for USA Today entitled, “Mr. President, here’s my NASA to-do list”.

Aldrin believes we don’t need to rerun the moon race that America won 40 years ago. Here’s what he writes about Mars:

First, I think that the president needs to be clear that Mars is the ultimate goal. The stepping stones to the Red Planet might include missions such as flybys of comets, approaches to near-Earth objects, and finally a manned mission to the Martian moon Phobos. This flexible path would create the infrastructure and transportation systems that would enable commercial and international development near Earth.

Aldrin differs with the president on scrapping the shuttle fleet. He writes:

We should keep the space shuttle in flight while we develop a heavy-lift launch vehicle. This should be a national priority. These investments will give us a solid basis for the civil space program for decades to come… Most important, we can re-establish American space leadership by reaching for this manned mission to Mars.

Mars? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? So did similar rhetoric about the moon. But Buzz and a small brotherhood of American heroes carried out that “impossible” plan of another president 40 years ago. Much to the amazement of one 12 year old boy. Who says it can’t happen again?

One Comment on “Meeting An American Hero

  1. Well, Mark, I’m so glad you remembered those wonderful days. We were camping, if you recall, when they landed on the moon. Fortunately a fellow camper with a large RV let us look at the landing on his TV. Niel Armstrong , of course, thinks we should again try for the moon. We knew Jim Irwin’s grandmother in Dormont—-long before you were born and long before he, too, went to the moon. Exciting memories!

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