Over 600 million earthlings watched as U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon 45 years ago today. The historical milestone brings about many memories and thoughts, especially from Baby Boomers who were among the millions viewing the duo on television.
Examiner Jack Dennis had an opportunity to meet with Aldrin, who received his nickname "Buzz" (the obvious inspiration for Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear's name) from his baby sister who could only say "Buzzer" instead of brother in their New Jersey home years ago.
Dennis caught up with Aldrin at a Space Autograph show in the St. Anthony hotel a few years ago when the second man to do the moonwalk had been creating plenty of buzz on TV's Dancing With The Stars by taking more than one small step for man.
Many know Dr. Aldrin, now 84, from the historical Apollo mission of 1969, but in the 2006 San Antonio interview, he candidly talked about two events not generally known about the moon voyage.
When asked about stories of the crew seeing an UFO on the way to the moon, Aldrin grinned. "Yes, we saw something," he explained. "But you have to remember the times. We could not blare it out that we saw any UFO because everyone was listening and hanging on to every word we said."
"Delicately, we asked Houston the location of the SIVB (booster rocket) and they told us something like it was 6,000 miles away," Aldrin continued. "I remember we talked about it as being L-shaped."
"Over the years, there have been many suppositions and misrepresentations, but we believe now it was a panel left over from the separation of the spacecraft," winked Aldrin.
Aldrin and Armstrong spent 21 hours on the lunar surface and brought back 46 pounds of moon rocks and specimens.
Did Aldrin feel any pressure to say or not say anything publicly while he was on the moon?
"Not censorship, if that is what you are implying," he answered. "We knew what we were doing was unparalleled and extraordinary in human history so we took our choice of words into account as part of our responsibility."
"Just a few minutes on the moon, I did make a statement of reflection asking everyone to give thanks for the moment," Aldrin said. "And then, with the radio off, I read from the Scripture. Only Neil (Armstrong) heard me."
Aldrin took a communion wafer and vial of wine from his minister to the surface of the moon.
"I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me," wrote Aldrin years after the mission. "In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup."
"Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.. Apart from me you can do nothing,'" he wrote.
Aldrin continued, "It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements."
It is interesting to note that Aldrin was the first astronaut to an a doctorate degree and that his thesis was the foundation and idea for the docking procedures used in the Gemini and Apollo missions. He was the first astronaut to accomplish a successful spacewalk, while during the Gemini 12 mission of 1966, he was outside the capsule for 5 1/2 hours.
Aldrin's first words on the moon were "Beautiful view. Magnificent desolation."