Today is Buzz Aldrin’s birthday.
If you don’t know who Buzz Aldrin is, well…[Catherine tries to resist the urge to tell you to leave her site and close the door after you, thanks] Okay. I’ll be nice: he’s the second guy to walk on the Moon. In July 1969 he and Neil Armstrong flew their Lunar Module Eagle the sixty nautical miles to the surface of the Moon and then Buzz waited while Neil got out and took that historic first step.
According to pretty much everyone except Buzz himself, Buzz wasn’t too happy with this arrangement. In the mission planning stages, there may have been some confusion or ambiguity which may have led Buzz to believe that he would be first out. Other Apollo Astronauts recall how he began campaigning for it, bristling against Armstrong and creating tension amongst his crew until finally NASA made a decision and decreed Neil would take that historic step.
Buzz has had a hard life since he walked on the Moon. He battled alcoholism, divorce and depression and like the other Moonwalkers, struggled to find something to do that could top such an achievement. You can read about his colourful life in his books. But reading other astronaut biographies and reading between the lines of his, it seems Buzz never made his peace with being the second man out of the hatch.
Apollo 11 crew member Michael Collins, who never got to walk on the Moon at all but instead stayed in lunar orbit aboard Columbia, has said that Aldrin resents not being the first man more than he appreciates being the second.
I was reminded of this earlier when I went to leave a ‘Happy Birthday Buzz’ message on Aldrin’s Facebook page and caught sight of this in his bio:
“It was 40 years ago I had the privilege of being one of the first two humans to walk on the Moon.”
Let it go, Buzz. Let it go.