History & Culture

Civilians in Orbit – Buzz Aldrin’s Hope

buzz

In the late 1990s, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin spoke to a class I was teaching. His message was simple. While the only Americans in space had been NASA astronauts, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, or Shuttle, one-day ordinary people – civilians riding as tourists – would orbit. He hoped to see it.

Reality is even more poignant, as a quick search of speeches, articles, and appearances by Dr. Aldrin – himself a Sc.D. in astronautical engineering from MIT – reveals. Over the course of two decades, Dr. Aldrin was a pioneer in promoting, believing possible, encouraging support for “space tourism.”

Interestingly, long before he walked on the Moon with Neil Armstrong in 1969, before orbiting in Gemini 12 with Jim Lovell in 1966, Aldrin was thinking out of the box.

At MIT, he originated thinking on orbital rendezvous mechanics, central for rendezvous in lunar orbit, used in Apollo missions. Before his successful Gemini spacewalks, he helped perfect neutral buoyancy training in a NASA pool, perfect simulation for space, a practice that became standard.

In effect, Buzz has always been slightly ahead of the curve, calm beyond expectation, decorated Korean War fighter pilot, and an intellectual willing to accept criticism for being different, a bit nerdy.

His sense of humor is self-deprecating, another feature that endears him to hundreds of millions. He was the one who remarked he was stepping down the LEM ladder after Armstrong, “being careful not to lock the door behind” him, noted they appeared to be “first on the runway” when leaving the Moon.

Buzz is, even today – ready with a chuckle at life’s ironies – at peace with himself and the pace of life, even if not on a launchpad. He is ready to admit modern engineering is getting beyond his expertise, yet thrilled to see it and to support human space flight – good news for American space leadership.

Speaking to a class of students in the 1990s, the pioneering Moonwalker predicted reusable spacecraft, launched by the private sector, would become standard. He predicted they would orbit, ending NASA’s monopoly on space, opening an era of “space tourism,” his term for civilian pleasure trips into space.

If Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein had science fiction books, Buzz managed to write – from personal experience in space and on the Moon – science fact and science fiction. He then turned to inspire younger Americans with books on how they might get to space.

Among his predictions, launch costs would fall, rockets and designs proliferate, government training becomes unnecessary, enthusiasm grows for space travel, and in time mankind would reach into the heavens with purpose, no need for government push.

His hope was that he might live to see that day, civilians inspired to orbit Earth and return safely – then perhaps cast their eyes higher still – to the Moon, return flights to that magical orb, on to Mars.

Incredibly, Buzz and all of us have just witnessed a civilian crew take off, orbit Earth, and return safely – the first real, unvarnished, privately engineered, orbital example of “space tourism,” the idea on which Buzz wrote and spoke more than two decades ago.

On watching the SpaceX Inspiration4 flight launch, crew orbit, and return safely, Buzz must have thought again about how life works. You imagine something, you dream about it, work night and day for it, pay no attention to critics, those who say it cannot happen, or goal too big, or distance too far – and then you make it happen, and ponder having done so.

Congratulations to all those who made this latest human space flight mission, a first in many regards, a true success – and one that benefits St. Jude’s, success of its own. Congratulations to Dr. Buzz Aldrin for predicting and quietly cheering this success. And congratulations to America – to all Americans who still share, treasure, and pursue the American Dream here on Earth and out there…in space. Onward!

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Benny Bartek
1 month ago

To Whom It May Concern,

      My name is Benny Bartek. I am elderly and disabled. I have been sharing a lot of news worthy stories from emails I get from you on Facebook. Before trying to report news the media won’t, Facebook was harassing me for news items I would find on Facebook. I figured it was time to start being the start of the story on Facebook.

      All the while, I figured if Facebook sent its fact-checkers after me, they’d have to get passed your checks and verification. Well, it has been happening big time! Facebook is calling your stories lies, untruths, a/o out of context. They keep throwing up block after block, and slowed my feed down to a crawl. I’m not being allowed to see very much either.

      I thought I should let you know so your legal teams can start filing lawsuit after lawsuit on the SOBs. I would like to extend a friendly hand out to you and allow you to use my Facebook pages as examples of their trampling American freedoms. They might shut my Facebook page down completely (it would not surprise me), so I’ve provided you with every way there is for you to contact me.

      I will also be sending this same letter to Freedom Headlines, as I have been sharing their news items as well. Go get ’em! Make us all proud!

Thank you for your time,

Ollyoop
1 month ago

Excellent article, especially regarding Buzz and the criticism he’s received because of his free -spirited manner of commenting on things he believed biased, or simply untrue.

As one who spent many years supporting our space program at Kennedy Space Center, beginning with Gemini-Titan, then Apollo, and finally Shuttle, I had severe doubt regarding the ability and perseverence of Elon Musk to make good on what he was attempting to accomplish with SpaceX; that is, until he demonstrated his highly successful Falcon-9 Rocket, and recovery of an intact booster utilizing controlled rocket thrust to softly return to earth.

I watched the night launch of SpaceX Inspiration4 from my front yard the other night and came to realize, entrepeneurs like Musk, along with government, are now the future of our space program.

I’ve been waiting patiently for the Artemis program to ‘mature’ and eventually return us to the Lunar surface, that first step on our path to a journey to Mars, just hope I’m still around when/if we manage to get there with the government we’re unfortunately saddled with today!

Carol
1 month ago

At my age, I’m better off waiting for the Doctor to show up in backyard in his TARDIS!

PaulE
1 month ago

RBC,

Yes “space tourism” will probably be a regular thing by two or more of the private sector companies in the space today. Of course the price for the ticket will remain well into six figures for at least the next decade. Not exactly what Buzz Aldrin was talking about when he spoke about “space tourism”, but we’re getting there slowly but surely. Perhaps we’ll achieve his dream of true space tourism, that is affordable by upper middle class people, in another 30 to 40 years.

Stephen Russell
1 month ago

Needed now see 2001 movie
Other space movies since IE Alien, Aliens, Dark Star, etc.
Star Trek: whole soceity in Space long range future.
Need 50 passenger shuttle planes & lunar shuttles from Orbital Hotel

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