Moon walk Buzz returns

On July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin was "out of town" when the world united and rejoiced in a way never seen before or since.

He and Neil Armstrong were on the moon.

They missed the whole celebration 45 years ago this Sunday. So did Michael Collins, orbiting solo around the moon in the mother ship.

Now, on this Apollo 11 milestone — just five years shy of the golden anniversary — Aldrin is asking everyone to remember where they were when he and Armstrong became the first humans to step onto another heavenly body, and to share their memories online.

Too young? You can also share how the moonwalkers inspired you.

Celebrities, public figures, and other astronauts and scientists are happily obliging with videos.

“What a day that was,” said actor Tom Hanks, sipping from an Apollo 11 commemorative cup. He starred in the 1995 film Apollo 13, another gripping moon story.

“Going to space is a big deal. Walking on the moon is, literally, walking on the moon,” said singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams, born four years afterward.

And from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who watched the event unfold on a little black-and-white TV at an English farmhouse: “I knew immediately it was the most exciting thing that I’d ever seen. I was only five at the time. And it still is just about the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen.”

In all, 12 men explored the moon in six landings through 1972. But that first moonwalk, by Armstrong and Aldrin, is what clinched America’s place as space leader supreme following a string of crushing losses to the Soviet Union, which claimed title to first satellite, first spaceman, first spacewoman and first spacewalker.

“US 1, Sputnik nothing,” actor Louis Gossett Jr said with a laugh in his video.

It’s the first big anniversary of man’s first moon landing without Armstrong, whose “one small step ... one giant leap” immortalised the moment.

Armstrong, long known for his reticence, died in 2012 at age 82. As Apollo 11’s commander, Armstrong was first out of the lunar module, Eagle, onto the dusty surface of Tranquility Base. Aldrin followed.

Collins, now 83, the command module pilot who stayed behind in lunar orbit as the gatekeeper, also spent decades sidestepping the spotlight. He’s making an exception for the 45th anniversary — he plans to take part in a Nasa ceremony at Kennedy Space Center on Monday to add Armstrong’s name to the historic Operations and Checkout Building.

That leaves Aldrin, 84, as the perennial spokesman for Apollo 11. He will also be at Monday’s ceremony.

“I consider myself a global statesman for space,” Aldrin says in a YouTube video. “So I spend most of my time travelling the country and the world to remind people what Nasa and our space programme have accomplished, and what is still in our future at Mars. I feel we need to remind the world about the Apollo missions and that we can still do impossible things.

“The whole world celebrated our moon landing. But we missed the whole thing because we were out of town.”

Aldrin used to keep a little black book to list people’s whereabouts on July 20, 1969. Everyone wanted to share that with him.

Now he’s using social media and asking people to post a video to YouTube using the hashtag #Apollo45.

And the stories are pouring in. Actor Tim Allen watched the moon landing from his boyhood Michigan home.

“To this day, it’s the most exciting thing in my life, just to think what you saw and what you experienced,” Allen said.

It’s the first major Apollo 11 anniversary — one divisible by five — that actually falls on the days of the week that the events occurred.

Lift-off was, indeed, on a Wednesday, Eastern time; the moon landing was on a Sunday, Eastern time.

“More than any other time in history, all the people of the world truly did experience it and were able to share it. Not just as an American feat, but as a really global event,” said Peter Alyward, a self-professed space geek from Melbourne, Australia, who recalls his parents waking him in the middle of the night to see the Saturn V launch.

Some of videos urge a return to the moon. President Barack Obama scrapped that idea in 2010 in favour of sending astronauts to an asteroid and then Mars.

“Well done, Buzz Aldrin,” said Johnson, London’s mayor. “And about time we got back up there, huh?”

Rocking around

Scientists say a space probe aiming to become the first to land on a comet has taken images that appear to show its target could actually be two separate lumps of rock and ice flying in tandem.

The pictures released yesterday were taken by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe, which is nearing the final stage of its decade-long mission to rendezvous with and drop a lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The landing is planned for November.

Mission scientist Matt Taylor says the images shot from several thousand miles away show 67P is shaped like “a strange-looking potato.”

He says this could mean the comet is a so-called contact binary composed of two distinct parts, or that it’s one unit deformed by its passage past Jupiter or the sun.


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