On July 20th 1969, an estimated 500 million people watched the live broadcast of the first moon landing, marking one giant leap for mankind. Forty years on, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin looks back to that extraordinary achievement with host Kristie Lu Stout on CNN’s TALK ASIA. He walks audiences through the experience as it happened, as archive footage illustrates his journey. He also shares his views on the future of space travel, the race to Mars and how he struggled to adjust to life back on earth upon his return.
The 79-year-old still remembers vividly approaching the moon: “We went through the shadow of the moon as they were approaching it to enter lunar orbit. And that’s quite a treat when you see the sun eclipsed by the moon against the dark sky and the glow coming from the sun around the back of the moon.” He describes his first impressions of the moon: “It’s a magnificent place for humanity to demonstrate its progress by being there, but it’s a desolate place.”
Buzz Aldrin will always be known as the second man to set foot on the moon, but as he says: “There were two people in the crew and somebody has to be first.” The astronaut believes that who stepped out first was not the crucial factor at that moment. “Armstrong and Aldrin went on an expedition. But somehow, today, it’s very important for us to establish who did something first.”
Despite his place in history, Aldrin describes the decision to land on the moon as a “stunt” by President Kennedy during the Cold War and says the United States should now focus on Mars – instead of returning to the Moon.
“Let’s see who gets to Mars first. I believe that Russia is very intent – they have a mission to bring a sample back from the moon of Mars and it has a Chinese payload on that mission, it was supposed to be launched this year but it’s been put off a couple of years. That’s well in advance of the United States and they’ve got people in seclusion for 500 days to simulate Mars missions. We’re not doing that. We should be doing that because that’s the next frontier, there’s no point in Russia going back to the moon 40 years after we went there.”
He addresses the recent space exploration by China and is confident that the country can land a man on the moon “as soon as they want to do it”. The astronaut believes that nationalism is the key element pushing the country in pursuit of space dominance: “…they want to demonstrate, I think, to all the citizens of China that they are the country that will dominate the 21st century.”