Buzz Aldrin really, really wants you to go to Mars.
His new memoir, No Dream Is Too High, covers his life of moonwalking and shooting down commies, organized under his 13 top life lessons (“The sky is not the limit … There are footprints on the Moon!”; “Second comes right after first”). If you don’t like dad jokes, you will not like what is, at its core, a big book of granddad jokes. (“Innovation is my middle name unless I decide to change it to “Lightyear.”) It’s apparent from the beginning that Aldrin is a storyteller.
Much as walking on the moon would be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for many people, this book fulfills my own lifelong dream of Buzz Aldrin being my grandpa. This book will make you feel like you’re sitting cross-legged around a campfire, looking up eagerly at Grandpa Buzz while he tells you ghost stories and tales of his glory days. Co-writer Ken Abraham could have cleaned the manuscript up, cut out some of the “literally”s and “definitely”s and exclamation points, and he did not, and that is as it should be because Buzz Aldrin is a national treasure and his book should sound like him. This is a book that parents should read aloud to their kids.
Toward the end of the book, after most of the Life Lessons and graduation-gift inspirational quotes, we get to something that’s clearly important to Buzz: colonizing Mars.
The moon, says Buzz, is “been there, done that.” Returning would be an unnecessary drain on our nation’s resources. Mars, though — that’s where our focus should be. Buzz is not messing around with this:
“Permanence is key, right from the get-go. Some of my colleagues don’t feel that establishing a settlement on Mars is wise; others consider it a suicide mission. I disagree. Over a period of six or seven years, we can construct a habitat and laboratory on Mars. Certainly, some people will go to Mars, stay for a while, and return to Earth, but we should also seek out and encourage people who with to travel to Mars and remain there for the rest of their lives.”
Aldrin’s book tells us that he was the first person to ever take a selfie in space, and that the first thing he did on the moon was pee his pants (don’t bother making a “one giant leak for mankind” joke, Buzz is already there). It tells us he ate celery in his lunch every day for years because it didn’t occur to him to tell his wife he didn’t like it. It tells us about his struggles with alcohol and depression, and how it felt to watch men he admired be killed in aviation- and space exploration-related accidents. It does not tell us, as I had hoped, that Buzz had finally come around to the reality that human beings are contributing to global warming, but we can’t have everything. I think the best thing we learn, though, is just how excited Buzz is for Mars, and how hard he’s trying to put us there.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently appeared at the NASA Kennedy Space Center and said he’ll make an statement about his company’s plans to colonize Mars within the year. (Buzz mentioned private spaceflight company Blue Origin in the book, but no SpaceX. Read into that what you will, though there was still lots of praise for Elon Musk.)
The Curiosity Rover continues to send back just all kinds of cool stuff. Musk has said he needs just 11 or 12 years to put people on Mars, which means Buzz might really see this happen. At 86, he says he plans to live for several more decades.