Buzz Aldrin LIFE Gallery & The Real Astronauts of Canaveral County

You know, walking on the surface of the moon, there really is nothing more irrelevant than having a watch telling you the time in Houston.

Buzz Aldrin, via Buzz Aldrin Talks to LIFE – Photo Gallery – LIFE.

A great collection of Apollo 11 photos, annotated by lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin.

It’s interesting how Aldrin has become the most visible and recognizable spokesperson for the Apollo alumni. Plenty of those guys are still around and they’re not exactly recluses; just last week, I caught an episode of “History Detectives” where the historian paid a visit to Apollo 12 LMP Alan Bean in his art studio.

But Aldrin is the one astronaut who’s made himself Available with a capital “A.”

Hmm. A half-formed joke in my head has quickly turned into an actual idea: wouldn’t you tune in to watch a 6-episode documentary-style reality show about someone who once walked on the moon?

These guys lead interesting lives. If they weren’t already driven, focused, goal-oriented people, they wouldn’t have made it into the astronaut program. Their post-lunar-golfing careers tend to point that out. I’m interested in their usual circuits of speaking gigs and advisory boards. I’m also interested to know how many years passed by before they began to think of their lunar expeditions in much the same way as someone in a (literally) mundane line of work might regard a big business trip they took a long time ago.

Or does that ever happen? I really want to see these astronauts’ living rooms. I want to see a scene where they’re flipping channels in their living rooms, and then set the remote down on a glass display box. To them, it’s a handy surface next to the couch. If a visitor asks a stammering, awestruck question, the answer would be “Oh, yeah, that’s one of the gloves I wore during the extravehicular parts of my Moon mission. Sorry it’s so filthy. That’s why Judy made me put it in that box…once you get lunar regolith on a sofa slipcover, you just have to throw it out.”

I like the idea because I’m fascinated by a simple question: after you’ve seen the Earth as a dot on the horizon of another planet…I mean, how do you follow that up? Alan Bean went on to command a Skylab mission and stayed on at NASA as an administrator. But then there came the day when he dropped the stick and picked up a paintbrush, feeling a higher passion to document the space program through art.

But I admit that I also have a lowbrow interest in seeing what happens when, say, a clerk at Starbucks is rude to Charlie Duke. How would he respond?

“I’m sorry. I didn’t happen to see the sign,” he might amiably say, indicating a placard reading “This Line For Starbucks Cardholders Only,” which was mostly obscured by unsold CDs.

“But to answer your question: yes, I can read. Here, I’ll prove it: ‘Breakfast sandwiches are not served after 11 AM’. See? Yes, indeed, reading is just one of the many, many physical and mental tests I had to pass before NASA selected me for their fifth class of astronauts in 1966. And no wonder: they made me read lots of things in my years of preparation for, and even during, the more than twenty hours I spent walking on the surface of the Moon.”

The clerk hands him his change without saying anything.

“And because you apparently don’t even have the courtesy to apologize for having been so rude to a senior citizen, I will now also point out that when I was about your age, I had already qualified to fly supersonic fighter planes.”

6 thoughts on “Buzz Aldrin LIFE Gallery & The Real Astronauts of Canaveral County”

  1. I’m really glad I didn’t have a drink in hand (or mouth) when I got to he last sentence. Way to wrap it up.

  2. Well, that’s the snarkiest post I’ve seen from you in some time. Especially (as Jonathan pointed out) that last sentence.

    (And this is coming from someone who went back and read all of Yellowtext when I first found it, and everything since.)

    May I have more, please, sir?

  3. I don’t want to find out that he *doesn’t* stand in front of his huge floor-to-ceiling window in his penthouse apartment and shake his fist at the moon and yell at it “I own you! I walked on your face!”.

  4. Recommended reading: Buzz Aldrin’s “Men from Earth,” which I read back in the early 90s shortly after it came out. Oh, and I grew up in Ft. Worth, and I’ll never forget (even though I was really young) Alan Bean day, complete with a parade after his moon excursion. The moon landings were such an incredible accomplishment. There is such irony in that Nixon’s name is on the lunar surface, too. Kind of sums up America, if you think about it.

  5. At the time, and for quite a number of years after, there was the tacit assumption that many more astronauts would follow the first 12 moon walkers. But we remain decades away from returning, and this elevates immensely the status of those 12. Buzz has had a rocky road, but I admire his willingness to engage the public and accept his celebrity. Only nine of these men remain, and we’ll start losing them rapidly in the next few years. It was such an incredible feat that it’s no wonder that so many are skeptical that it even happened. Buzz even punched one guy who confronted him saying it was fake!

  6. They are true heroes and it’s a shame that we weren’t able to follow through on their “years ahead of their time” achievements. Your writing is always so enjoyable – I look forward to more!

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