Book tour lands astronaut in Little Rock
Those are the words Dr. Buzz Aldrin, the second human being to ever step foot on another world, used to characterize the moon when he gave a lecture at the Robinson Center Music Hall August 14. The lecture was sponsored by the Clinton School and the Clinton Foundation.
A crowd of more than 2,500 people sat in their seats, seemingly breathless as they listened to the words of the man who helped put the United States on the celestial map.
The former astronaut provided a first-hand account of what it’s like to leave the atmosphere of this planet and land on surface of another. Aldrin, 83, was joined on stage with Leonard David, the co-author of his latest book, “Mission to Mars: My vision for space exploration.”
As Aldrin guided the crowd through various details of that celebrated and revered era of the United States space program, he was quick to shift to the present – a time when “$65 million per passenger” is paid to the Russians, so American astronauts can “travel to our $100 billion station.”
Aldrin said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration receives about one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget. He estimates that in NASA’s prime, circa 1967, the program received approximately 3.5-4 percent of the federal budget. Aldrin said NASA can’t do the things they want to do when they receive such a low percentage of federal funds.
One way to help fund the various space projects brewing at NASA is to forge partnerships with other countries, Aldrin said. “Re-invite the Chinese to come to the space station. Right now, we buy rides on Russian rockets.”
“We have to open the door widely,” Aldrin said. “I think space is the way to do it. And relations on the surface would be much better,” he added.
Aldrin displayed a chart, complete with timetables and descriptions of goals, of what needs to occur so that the United States can reach Mars by 2035. Some of those steps involved setting up a lunar base to act as sort of an extended launch pad to Mars’ moons and eventually the Red Planet itself.
Before his time on stage ended, Aldrin invited questions from the audience. The inquiries ranged from how space has affected his body to his reasoning for punching Bart Sibrel (“He called me a liar and a cheat. What do you expect me to do,” Aldrin said to laughter and applause.)
Before exiting the stage and taking a seat in the lobby to sign copies of his new book, Aldrin commented on two brief videos that were shown to the crowd.
One shows Aldrin talking about the two things he enjoys most, “space exploration and hip-hop.” Aldrin is seen in the video laying down rap lyrics in a studio with the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg (now known as Snoop Lion).
The other video teased an unreleased simulation-based video game called “Space Program Manager,” which will apparently let users experience what it took to get the space program to its 1960s and 70s glory.
Aldrin is one of only 12 human beings to walk on the surface of the moon. His new book is available now.