4 July 2009, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London
I haven’t been to many literature talks before, so this was a real treat, as it’s rare that Buzz Aldrin speaks! 🙂
This talk was very interesting. Although the content was somewhat limited in that Buzz Aldrin didn’t seem to want to elaborate on many things and he kept trying to push his book, it was quite fascinating trying to read into his psychology. His reactions, his experiences and what astronauts have to face when going through training, but even more so what they experience after coming back from the moon.
One question that came up, a question that must’ve been asked millions of times, was: what did it feel like the moment you stepped on the moon? You could sense impatience and angst in his tone. ‘What do you mean how did it feel?! How did it feel?!’ Not only is it hard to put into words, he says, but he told us about what he had to experience before even making the venture out to the moon. The militant life that he had, losing one of his best friends to a failed moon trip, losing his mother, how they were seconds away from disaster before they landed, Armstrong being the household name and not him just because he was the one holding the camera… His answer was ‘magnificent desolation’, which is also the name of his new personal memoir. It must be frustrating to again and again be asked this question. And he kept pushing his book which was initially annoying, but by the end you think, ah it’s because he must be repeatedly asked the same questions. It must be so difficult to put emotions into words, to fully capture all the complexities of everything one feels that he’s like look, I put everything I can possibly say into this book – just read it. Nothing else will do it justice.
I think it’s fair to say that not many people have a moment in life that they work towards and can pinpoint the climatic moment in life. But if you do have one, like Buzz and other astronauts may have, what do you do afterwards? Especially if technological development is a hindering factor. It’s pretty hard to top being one of the first to step onto the moon. As a consequence, lots of astronauts have since fallen into depression (including Buzz), become hermits (Neil Armstrong) and alcoholics.
What would I do if I lived the moment I’ve worked towards my whole life? Hmm… better start lengthening my things-to-achieve list.