Walk on the Moon: 40th Anniversary
An Estimated 600 Million People Watched First Moon Landing

Buzz Aldrin
Astronaut, Space Advocate
Monday, July 20, 2009 3:30 PM

Forty years ago on this date Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first humans to set foot on the moon, while pilot Michael Collins orbited as part of the mission of Apollo 11, fulfilling a goal set by President John F. Kennedy and echoed in his famous speech to Congress in 1961.

Special Report: Apollo 11's 40th Anniversary

Aldrin Helps Mark His Own Milestone (TV Week, July 19)

Aldrin was online Monday, July 20, at 3:30 p.m. ET to discuss the anniversary, his new autobiography, 'Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From the Moon' and his feelings about the current space program.


Falls Church, Va: What has the space program done or expect to do for humans on earth?

Buzz Aldrin: It has given us great inspiration for those who have witnessed its achievements and ultimately led to the solution of its beginning which was the ending of the Cold War. The reason for the space program was to demonstrate our capabilities to respond and that response of winning the race to the moon ultimately led to the ending of the Cold War.


Burbank, Calif.: If NASA offered for you to fly in the first spacecraft to Mars, would you accept?

Buzz Aldrin: The earliest my calculations are that that would be 2025. I'm afraid there are much younger more aggressive people to go,. We want young settlers, enthusiastic eager settlers to go to the surface of Mars and that probably won't occur till 2031. I'll be 101 then.


Washington, D.C.: Is the U.S. flag still on the moon?

Buzz Aldrin: There are the remnants of six American flags, ours on Apollo 11 was clearly the most beautiful one before it blew over on liftoff. Solar radiation is very severe on cloth material.


Chesterfield, Mo.: Mr. Aldrin, if you had been asked 40 years ago where space exploration would be in 2009, what do you think you would have said?

Buzz Aldrin: Probably we would have been planning intently on going to Mars probably with experienced returns to the moon but because it has taken this long and other nations (China, India, possibly Japan, maybe Russia, I doubt it. I think Russia and China have long-term interests in Mars and we shouldn't be hesitant about our plans to Mars via the inner moon of mars, Phobos) are almost ready to go to the moon themselves, we should help them with our experience and devote our resources to progressive, exciting pathways past the moon toward Mars.


Washington, D.C.: Is the United States now losing the space race? Have we lost our lead in 40 years?

Buzz Aldrin: Absolutely not, we're still leaders but others are catching up rapidly. We shouldn't tarry with our plans for Mars.


Sarasota, Fla.: On your first trip into space, what surprised you the most about the experience?

Buzz Aldrin: The ease in which space walking had been greatly facilitated by my underwater training and the significant improvement in foot restraints.


Houston, Tex.: Buzz,

If you were NASA administrator, what would you suggest to the President to keep NASA moving forward and keeping the majority of the workforce employed?

Buzz Aldrin: I would rapidly institute the options of the Augustine Commission selected by the president's science adviser and the president. It's charged with reviewing current NASA plans for human space flight, reviewing plans and providing options for the president.


Anonymous: Does having been on the moon make you believe more or less in a supreme being?

Buzz Aldrin: Being on the moon hasn't significantly altered my previous understanding or lack of understanding. In the second half of my life since then, I have significantly evolved my sense of involvement with a universal and perfect higher power.


New York, N.Y.: Do you think the recent imaging of the Apollo sites will silence the conspiracy theorists that thought you and the other Apollo astronauts never landed on the moon?

Buzz Aldrin: Probably not, they are seeking their own public attention and my concerns may be lessened for the number of gullible people who listen to them, including the media. The only solution is to ignore self-seekers.


Reston, Va.: At the time of the moon landing, did you think that 40 years later you'd still be one of the few people to ever walk on the moon? Did you expect in 1969 that in 2009 moon travel would be routine? Are you disappointed?

Buzz Aldrin: No, perhaps America might've gone back but back then I really didn't see why other nations' progress would have them reaching the moon perhaps by now. Perhaps by 2020 or later.


Brookfield, Wis.: What did you do in the space vehicle, while you were waiting to go out on your first walk on the Moon?

Buzz Aldrin: I was intently observing the progress of my commander Neil Armstrong.


Raleigh, N.C.: I've just read "Magnificent Desolation" and found it so gripping that I had to put the book down each time you described the little known "close calls" on the trip. I was also amazed to learn that your late mother's maiden name was Moon! Can such a long shot (no pun intended) be a coincidence or do you think there is a "Great Scriptwriter" in the sky with a decidedly wry sense of humor? Also, thank you for being so accessible, allowing millions to share the brightest news story of the 20th century.

Buzz Aldrin: Thank you. I believe we should all be as human as possible because that's what we were and that's what we are.


washingtonpost.com: This concludes our discussion with Buzz Aldrin. He has many more appearances to make and did the interview with us while traveling from one media venue to the next. Thank you for joining us.


Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive