Buzz Aldrin

On Facebook I got a message from one Geoffrey Utley, Yorkshire man who moved to Texas in 1979 for 2 years and stayed there. I found it fascinating, and maybe you will too:

Do you have a scientific background? The the science in your books seems “plausible” by the way. I was on a flight from NYC to Dallas the other day and Buzz Aldrin was sitting across from me in First Class. That was a huge thrill. I was re-reading Gridlinked at the time, and I thought about the beginning of space travel to a possible future. (I was reading it on a Kindle!)

My reply to that was:

Hi Geoffrey,
No I don’t have a scientific background. The nearest I’ve come to it in my career was a proper job in engineering. I was raised by a father who was a lecturer in applied mathematics and a schoolteacher mother, so grew up with microscopes, chemistry sets etc, and the best thing any parent can teach a child: how to think, be analytical, and a love of learning. Everything else comes from my heavy science fiction and science reading, and an undiminished interest in both.

I also asked him if I could copy his comments to here and was just going to leave it at the one. However, I like this next bit too:

“Returning from the NE Regional Meeting, flying from LaGuardia , NY, I found myself sitting across the aisle from Buzz Aldrin and his wife. There may be a couple of you who have to “google” his name. To me, it was the equivalent of being in proximity to Mickey Mantle, or Muhammmed Ali.

Buzz Aldrin was the second human being to step foot on the Moon. Along with many other honors, he and the other crewmen were given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I thought to myself, he was second, so is that like a silver medal in the Olympics, or only winning $100 million in the lottery instead of $250 million? Of course not, he and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon at the same time, but Armstrong as the commander was ordered by NASA to be the first.

I remembered going to my friend’s house in the summer of 1969 in Yorkshire, England . I was not old enough to drive, so I was allowed by my parents to ride my 5 speed to my friend Phil’s house to watch the lunar landing. This was unusual because when they landed, it was primetime in the USA , but about 4am in England. All the usual rules were suspended about riding my bike in the dark, and streets that were usually deserted had life and light.

We watched the fuzzy images on a black and white television, listening to England’s equivalent to Walter Cronkite, Richard Dimbleby. We heard the “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” and were still not able to relax, because of course, they had to come home. “Home,” being the Earth.

I keep stealing glances across the aisle, to watch an immaculately dressed man, looking like the retired CEO of a Fortune 100 company. I noticed he wore two very expensive looking wrist watches on his left and right wrists and wondered what time he kept them set-on. Eastern and Lunar maybe? The Captain and the First officer came out of the cockpit, (at separate times), to shake his hand, as discreetly as possible. I thought about the chances that 41 years after the fact, I was sitting close to the man I had seen step foot on our closest neighbour in the solar system. I thought about the fact that the device I’m typing this on had more computing power than a combination of all the computers on all the Moon missions’ vehicles. I thought about the bravery of his wife, who had to watch and wait.

I thought about the challenges we have in front of us and how insignificant they are compared to what they achieved with slide rules and graph paper.”

Damned right. And, really, how did we lose our way?

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