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Failure is Not An Option: An Interview with Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin, the second human to set foot on the Moon, recalls the Apollo 11 mission and how one felt tip pen helped the astronauts successfully return to Earth.

Today we honor the 50th anniversary of the first human footsteps on the Moon! This day is especially significant because the Smithsonian Institute has chosen The Museum of Flight as the venue for hosting the command module Columbia, the spacecraft that Apollo 11 astronauts took to the Moon and back, and it’s the only piece of the spaceship that made it back to Earth. When Buzz Aldrin visited the Museum for our annual gala, he was interviewed by Neil Armstrong’s sons—Rick and Mark—and refers to Armstrong as “your dad” throughout the interview. Aldrin gives some insights about the famous image of him exiting the LEM to begin extravehicular activity on the lunar surface. “I didn’t see him [Neil] having much trouble moving around,” Aldrin’s says, recalling seeing Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon before him. Seeing Neil moving easily across the Moon’s surface gave Buzz a false sense of confidence. “I thought 1/6 of gravity, that’s nothing!” But Buzz slipped coming down the ladder, just moments after that famous photo was taken. Buzz also discusses fears that scientists had about contingency lunar samples bursting into flames upon being introduced to the oxygen pressurized cabin—a fear that turned out to be unfounded. But Buzz’s favorite moment of the Moon mission was when his very own felt tip pen helped repair a broken circuit for the engine arm: a device necessary for the astronauts to depart the Moon’s surface. Buzz knew that a spokesperson wanted to push news of the Fisher ballpoint pen’s role during the mission because it was an officially approved NASA pen; but, Buzz told him: “Just don’t go spreading the message that your pen saved Apollo 11!”


Want to see Buzz Aldrin’s pen and the broken circuit for yourself? Check out our exhibition Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission to see rare artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission!

Don’t miss the other stops on our Destination Moon podcrawl:

GeekWire podcast

The Truth from Radiotopia

KNKX Sound Effect

Stuff You Missed in History Class


Host: Sean Mobley
Producer: Sean Mobley
Webmaster: Layne Benofsky
Content Marketing Manager: Irene Jagla

Thank you to Alaska Airlines for sponsoring this episode of the Flight Deck Podcast.


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