Does Anyone Recall the Words of the 2nd Man on the Moon?
By Wes O’Donnell, Managing Editor, In Space News
By now we are no doubt caught up in the much-deserved hype surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon expedition, happening this week.
Technology writers aren’t immune from this week’s moon euphoria, dare I say “lunacy,” either. I recently purchased at auction a 1mm x 1mm piece of the original kapton foil from the Apollo 11 command module.
Growing up in the late 1970s and 80s, I was raised in a world where humans had already set foot on a different celestial body. I can only imagine what it must have been like to watch it unfold live on television, John F. Kennedy’s moonshot realized.
And while Neil Armstrong may have been the first man on the moon, speaking the now-famous words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as he stepped off Eagle’s footpad, fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin made a number of significant contributions as well.
Buzz Aldrin: Problem Solver
First, while Armstrong deftly piloted the lunar lander around some boulders, Aldrin continued to call out navigation data as Eagle made its descent. In the final seconds, Aldrin confirmed the indicator light showing that one of the probes from Eagle’s footpads was in contact with the surface.
After landing, the hatch door wouldn’t open. The astronauts needed to depressurize the lander so that the module’s inner space matched the vacuum outside. If they tried to force the door, they risked breaking the handle, either locking them inside or breaking the door open. Eventually, Aldrin was able to delicately work the seal in a way that allowed enough air to escape so the hatch could open.
Aldrin recalled his exit 19 minutes after Armstrong touched the surface in an interview with Reuters. Aldrin states, “I then got in position to come down … came down the ladder, and jumped off, being careful not to lock the door behind me.” Good call…Locking oneself out on the moon’s surface would have been hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.
Then came Buzz Aldrin’s first words on the moon: “Beautiful view. Magnificent desolation.”
When Esquire Magazine asked comedian Bob Hope what advice he had for the first words that the astronauts should say, he suggested: “I’ll be darned, it’s made of cheese!”
When it was time to depart the moon’s surface, Aldrin noticed that the circuit breaker that controlled the ascent engine had broken off.
For a few brief moments, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were stuck on the moon.
Thinking quickly, it was Aldrin who suggested that a felt-tip pen might be able to push the circuit breaker in, completing the circuit. It worked.
“For All Mankind”
Buzz Aldrin is 89 years old and one of only four astronauts left who have walked on the moon’s surface. And while Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins are very much American heroes, the Apollo 11 mission was the culmination of the hard work of thousands of dedicated people and an American investment of $25.4 billion.
And yet, it wasn’t just an American accomplishment but truly one for the entire world. Despite the first or second words that were said on the moon, perhaps the most important words were those we left behind.
The Apollo 11 stainless steel commemorative plaque on the lunar surface is inscribed: “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”