Buzz Aldrin: Stepping on the Darker Side of the Moon


Back in 2003, my pop sent me a letter from das fatherland with an enclosed picture of him in “space” waving a hand at me. My lack of a father figure during my young age meant that I had stuck it up on the wall adjacent to my study table at my residential school, just to have the sense of security that he’s on the lookout from above. A rather naïve, childish thought but nevertheless something that brought his presence to the table. The juniors, who often found me amusing, would come by my table, stop and glare at that space picture with such pure innocence that they actually thought my dad was an astronaut.  

I didn’t stop them from imagining, besides, I thought it was cool to have a father who does salsa and tango in microgravity while dodging Single Event Radiation Upsets like a pro. That would have been something isn’t it? I mean doing salsa in space, in a space suit and making another astronaut take an image while he/she silently drifts into eternity.

*swoons*

So when the chance did come begging to go see an actual astronaut and that too, the first astronaut to actually land on the moon, I took it with open arms….only to be largely underwhelmed later on. The speech that Dr. Buzz Aldrin made, although very charming and witty, was very mechanical in a weird way; it was almost like he was in some theatre and everything he said was scripted and well versed. That could have been because he’s used that same speech over and over again several times over but I guess my boredom largely stemmed from the fact that the mic kept f**king up and was way too noisy.

What really made me think though was during the panel discussion session when Buzz was replying to some questions from the audience and he tacitly admitted being depressed alcoholic post-Apollo mission. All I could then think was..wait but how? But why? With all that glamor and fame and high fiving with Neil Armstrong in zero gravity, how can you still become so..unhappy? 

Buzz takes on audience's question...read out by the MC
I would have loved to ask him if it was not for the talk show’s stupid, “post your questions online and we will read it out to buzz for you” which was quite ridiculous because 1) I didn’t know what website to post it on 2) the people who asked were all physically present in the hall (they were asked to stand up) 3) didn’t allow cross questioning or discussion. And this was all led by a brazenly rude sounding MC.

So I had to come back and resort to the internet for answers. What I found out was quite fascinating to say the least.

Just before the lunar mission, his mother, Marion Moon who happened to be born in 1903 when the wright brothers flew that first plane, committed suicide because she did not think her son could handle the imminent fame.

And how she got that right.

With 1/6th of the world’s population listening in to radio and tuning on TV, they were instant celebrities and with them back home, the politically biased media continued to exploit these astronauts to show the soviets that the great land of the immigrants were the new favorites. All the parades, the travelling, the meeting of head of states, the “we did it!” escalated them to dizzying heights that they hadn’t even dreamed of in their wildest dreams…only to be pulled back to earth in record speed.

Aldrin then at his peak at 39, was about to face the first of seemingly endless hurdles and that too, no ordinary one; he was about to get a divorce. A marriage that had lasted for more than 21 years, fell apart in matter of minutes. Finding it hard to see his family separate, he vowed to find that special someone again and he did soon after. His second marriage must have felt as a bitter sweet victory as the transient relationship tipped off-balance and soon enough, was faced with another pending divorce. In less than two years, he had had to sign two legal papers stating the end of his social relationship.

Tough for anyone but must have been tougher for someone who thought he had it all.

His private problems soon caught on his professionalism and his sparkling career in the military came to an abrupt end. Having gone on 66 combat missions in Korea as a fighter pilot in the 1950s, he had been assigned as a commandant of the USAF test pilot school. He was relieved of his duties after what was an unhappy stint as a test pilot. It’s likely that after all the highs he had had to experience, this wasn’t exactly thrilling enough.

And surely not.

As with any person with general frustrations with life would do, he turned to booze for help. The toxic mixture of alcohol and depression spiraled him into a position where he lost all he had, even his respect for himself. After being nearly broke, he decided working on a Cadillac dealership at Beverly Hills which didn’t work out as well. This was all in a span of 8 mere years of his space bound fame.

Talk about fall from grace.

You can read what he, himself has to say about the whole ordeal:
“When you've seen your family break up, then you get into an erroneous relationship, and you get married again, and that turns sour, then you're looking for some companionship, and that gets kinda complex, and somebody takes advantage in a way that really irritates you as a stalker and an obsessive… you really get kinda frustrated. And, if you're still drinking, you make some pretty dumb decisions”
You have to feel for a guy who was the first astronaut ever to get a PhD under his belt. Not just any PhD but a MIT one. Add to the fact that he wrote about manual orbital docking for his thesis which he actually practically performed in Gemini 12 mission when the rendezvous radar failed does shows a level intellectual ingenuity that’s hard to come by. Drinking surely does make very smart people very dumb.

But nothing saddened me as much when I read that although Disney blatantly based the astronaut character on Buzz in Toy Story and named him..well..Buzz Lightyear, they never paid a dime to him. The animation movie was bread and butter for kids growing up in the 90’s and having always thought that the character was the real buzz was why I grew fond of lightyear. 

Exploitation at its max, I have to say.

This all being said, he really has, quite literally, turned into a leaf. He’s been sober since 1978, gained back much of what he has lost, punched a few bastards who called his moon trip a hoax and also got over the lightyear character as he jokingly mentions at the very talk show..

“Follow me on twitter @TheRealBuzz and not some lightyear guy!”
his new mission: Mars

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