Saturday, 4 June 2016

Buzz Aldrin : A Remarkable Man

Photo of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong
On Friday evening,  I was privileged to see and hear, a real legend, Apollo astronaut, Buzz Aldrin.

He was visiting Bath in connection with his new book, No Dream is Too High

He spoke about his early life, giving us a potted biography, from his childhood (the name 'Buzz' coming from'Buzzer', as his sisters couldn't say 'brother' when they were very young), through his first flight at the age of two, and then (skipping a decade or so), he spoke about his service in the US Air Force, and flying as a fighter pilot during the Korean war. (including taking a photo from his gun turret camera, of a Russian pilot ejecting from his plane, which was published in 'Life' magazine)

And then on to his involvement in the Space program. He explained that he was encouraged by Ed White, who had been a close friend of his since they were both at West Point, to apply to NASA (White was later killed in the Apollo 1 disaster).

At first, he didn't succeed, as he had not been a test-pilot, which was one of the qualifications needed, but he persevered, and got accepted on his second attempt!

And, of course, then came the Gemini and Apollo programs - he spoke a little about these, and about the moon lading itself, including explaining that the black marks on his space suit in the famous photo of him on the moon are moondust left by Armstrong on the bottom rung of the ladder from the lander.

He also spoke about his love of diving (and showed a photo of him on a dive to celebrate his 80th birthday, hitching a lift with a whale shark!

The event finished with a few questions, including some from children. One of the kids asked whether he had needed a passport to go to the moon, and he explained that no, he didn't, but that he did fill in a travel voucher / expenses claim, setting out details of the full round trip!

I wasn't able to get a book signed due to the size of the queue - my seat was up in the circle. The venue holds about 1,600 people and I think it was sold out, so the queue as long, and I would have been near the back of it, so I didn't stay.

But even without meeting the man face to face it was an inspiring evening, with an extraordinary man, who has had the most extraordinary experiences. And a remarkable reminder of what scientific imagination can achieve.

(In fact, the one sour note of the evening was the number of people who were getting up and making a lot of noise, trying to jump to the front of the queue, before the event finished - do disruptive and rude!).

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