Monday, July 21, 2014



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Photo: NASA

When I was twelve "spacemen" (later "astronauts") were strictly science fiction. By the time I was twenty two man had walked on the moon. It was amazing then but perhaps what is more amazing now is to see Buzz Aldrin on the internet, an honest to God "old spaceman", or what we refer to in the nautical trades as an "old salt". I never quite got over the idea of "spacemen" being real, so the idea of there being a few old spacemen around swapping "space stories" with the young, and some serious ideas with the presently active "space corps" is mind boggling. Buzz Aldrin was one of the first to pen a personal memoir prominently featuring the Apollo moon program, his personal trip to the moon, and most importantly his changed life upon RETURN TO EARTH.  The book was published in 1973 and when I checked with Amazon they had about 60+ of various ages and conditions in stock. It sold well and with the ISBN numbers reprinted below a good librarian should have no real difficulty finding a library copy for you. I believe that this book may wax and wain in popularity over the coming decades but I predict that it will always be available in print. It is just too insightful, funny, and historical to simply let it pass from the collective human memory. 

 I don't want to spoil it for any of you who have not read it but you're going to be amazed , and amused by the thoughts that went through the Buzz head during his first hours on the moon and some of his activities that were never televised or reported in the media. Some of it is more fun than a barrel of monkeys and some is truly profound. Some of his  impressions of sights seen could never be conveyed by just a photograph. But the book gets really profound when it deals with Buzz Aldrin's RETURN TO EARTH. The public no longer knows the names of every astronaut, the Apollo crews were the last to have that level of fame. But the next really big milestone like a manned Mars mission will emblazon the crew's names in the public psyche. That crew needs to read RETURN TO EARTH before embarking on the outbound portion of the mission. 

 So how did a "Space Book" become an American Admiralty Books "Recommended Read"? Because we have blogged extensively on the parallels of space exploration with the age of sail explorations of the Europeans. These previous comparison posts appear to be drawing new interest, so we wanted to suggest a cracker jack read for the interested student of either the comparison of Space and Ocean exploration or simply space history. Not only is Buzz Aldrin part of Space history but his book RETURN TO EARTH is part of it as well and should be read by every teen thinking of a space based career. And then there is more.

 Watching Buzz Aldrin on the internet of late reminds me of an old South Louisiana commercial fisherman's saying "When you are young you fish, when you are old you make nets." Of course it went without saying that the old net making fishermen were not only supporting the fishing enterprise by making the necessary nets they were busy teaching the young fishermen about selecting and deploying nets, repairing nets, caring for nets, and were constantly available for questions on any subject related to the fisherman's craft. There was something immediately recognizable about seeing Buzz Aldrin doing what he has been doing of late. Like the net making old fisherman, Buzz the "old spaceman" is doing a little space "dock walloping " and spreading a bit of insight with a doze of humor where ever needed. I suppose now there will be an ever increasing supply of "old spacemen". But Buzz Aldrin is the original and thanks to his RETURN TO EARTH generations that will never get to see or hear him live will get to read some of his best "stuff". To this old sailor Buzz Aldrin is a recognizable cultural icon. He is to space transport and exploration what our old net making fishermen are to commercial fishing; cultural icon , legend, story teller, resident mentor. That is what we mean when we confer on him the title that I think of as highly honorific "old spaceman". A type of human I never believed that I'd live to see. Buy or borrow RETURN TO EARTH let's get some interest going on this title again so that it is placed on someone's print on demand inventory.

  • Hardcover: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394488326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394488325

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