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June 24th, 2009
06:30 AM ET

Commentary: Let's aim for Mars

Editor's note: Buzz Aldrin, whose new book is "Magnificent Desolation," was one of the two American astronauts who were the first people to set foot on the moon.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Buzz Aldrin walks on the moon in a photo taken by Neil Armstrong, his colleague on the 1969 mission. "]

By Buzz Aldrin
Special to CNN

(CNN) - Four decades have passed since the summer of 1969, when Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and I flew America's first lunar landing mission.

The passage of time has not faded either the memory of that summer or the importance of what we achieved, for our mission was about more than just exploring the moon.

On July 20, 1969, Neil and I were peering out the window of our lunar lander, the Eagle, as it descended toward the lunar surface. The ship's computer was steering us toward a field of boulders the size of cars.

That same computer - with less power than today's pocket calculators - was signaling that it was overworked and dangerously overloaded. Our single tank of fuel was nearly empty as we approached the surface, invisible to us, cloaked in a cloud of swirling dust.

Neil took manual control and flew us toward a smoother terrain. Then, as the shadow of our landing gear appeared etched onto the surface in the gloom, a light on our console flashed that contact had been made.

"Houston, Tranquility Base Here," Neil radioed to the listening world back home. "The Eagle has landed!"

For more than two hours, we explored the moon's dusty surface. We could easily tell that the planet we had landed on was very different from our home. The horizon visibly curved away in the distance, a sign of the moon's much smaller landscape.

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Filed under: NASA
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Dan

    History has shown any world power that fails to explore will decline. New technologies are spawned from exploration. Since the 60's the space program has has been a major source of improvements in computers and software, high tech materials, etc. If you want to address "real" problems look into other programs that do very little and have much larger budgets. NASA and funding for research are far below 1% of the U.S. federal budget. The return on investment for NASA is very high.

    October 30, 2009 at 10:59 am |
  2. Bernice

    I thought that we were in a serious financial state in the USA! Yeah right! This administration blew the whole financial problem out of control, just so he could SQUEEZE TRILLIONS off of the American people! To go to Mars?? What a joke! Here is where I think the Americans should be investing THIER money! #1. the electric grid!!! It is breaking down and in serious need of repair and attention! #2. The pothole ridden roads and highways along with the bridges from coast to coast! At this moment in time, the roads and bridges are at its worst and are simply falling onto the heads of the people below! #3 Our levys and dams, which are in horrible shape and needs repair soon to prevent a devestating flood which could wipe out people and property nationwide! #4. Public transportation... TRAINS (My heart goes out to the families in the DC area). What a shame!! They knew that this would happen! It was not IF, but when! #5 Our water pipes which supply the American people with fresh drinking water! They are OLD, and falling apart! Think of the bacteria in those pipes while your children drink from the tap! There are thousands of water main breaks each year causing millions of dollars in damage (charged to the American people) and last?? but not least?? #6 The sewage pipes which have been in decay for many years and causing seapage of waste to enter into our rivers and lakes! (then, right into your glass of fresh drinking water! ECOLI is a serious issue! We need someone in office who is not so concerned about himself and his interests, but concerned about the needs of the American peopleand who has the gumph to stand up and do something about it! We still need change, even after an election! This administration should not be spending our childrens and grandchildrens money, unless he is fixing the real problems, instead of creating more! America, let's fix the real problems, right here in America (on earth, in case he forgot)

    June 25, 2009 at 7:11 am |
  3. msmith1122

    Absolute power doesn't exist there's no such thing. So on that note hay America owns Mars. It's unofficial but since America put it all on the line even discovering than humanity had been fostered by higher races and even proving than you wipe out on Mars shame on you, wipe on Venus shame us, but wipe out on Earth then you suck ill shove it up your grass.

    June 25, 2009 at 6:40 am |
  4. Bob

    Mars would be an impressive goal. However, the economic collaspe and coming governement spending changes are likely to delay such a mission for a long time. My hope is that with commerical companies entering the space travel business things will be moved along.

    June 24, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  5. Larry

    Why go to Mars?

    Don't we pretty much know from the rovers that there's nothing to see there?

    June 24, 2009 at 9:02 am |
  6. wolverineblackstar

    buzz with snoop rapping the irony is striking!!! both have been higher then most=)!

    June 24, 2009 at 7:34 am |
  7. Rebecca Cooke

    I understand that Buzz Aldrin is an iconic figure in space history, but why don't you ask my dad (Doug Cooke) about these issues? He's only commited his entire life and career to NASA and the exploration of space and Mars. He has headed the Lunar Mars program and the Space Exploration program off and on for as long as I can remember. I see these "experts" on CNN talk about the things that my dad works hands-on with everyday. He is the best person to ask about these issues and would be able to answer the questions with first hand knowledge. You should look him up on the NASA website, it's very impressive.

    June 23, 2009 at 12:57 pm |