The former fighter pilot played a pivotal role in the Apollo 11 mission, which led to the first man – Neil Armstrong – walking on the Moon on July 21, 1969, almost seven hours after touching down following a tense descent. Armstrong jumped off the lunar lander and delivered his “one small step” speech to the millions watching anxiously at home before Aldrin joined him 20 minutes later. The pair would spend two-and-a-quarter hours outside the spacecraft, collecting 21.5kg of lunar material to bring back to Earth, before burying the US flag at Tranquility Base to signify the end of the Space Race.
Recalling his memories 50 years later, Aldrin admitted no simulator during the Apollo training programme could have prepared him for when he stepped out of the Eagle.
He told the Science Museum in 2019: “We touched down and I think the estimate – not because somebody put a dipstick in the fuel to see how much was left – but it was calculations and information on board, we probably had about 15 seconds of fuel left.
“There’s really no place on Earth that we could simulate a gravity of one-sixth of what we have here.
“So there really wasn’t a great simulation, because of that, we were scheduled at the bottom of the ladder to just hold on and sort of see what it was like under the gravity.
Buzz Aldrin spoke about Apollo 11
“Neil was down first and he did things and I could see him through the window.
“He had no trouble at all just moving around.”
Aldrin went on to reveal how he watched Armstrong to make sure it was safe to leave the lunar lander but added that he was surprised by how easy it was to move around when he joined his fellow astronaut.
He added: “So I knew that there wasn’t going to be any trouble for me to move around, so we proceeded on.
“Walking was relatively easy, I demonstrated this several times near the end of our stay on the surface in front of the TV camera.
“That was planned up here, if we had the time, and it looked to people back on Earth as if I was just having fun.
“But I was really doing something for people to observe the ease of mobility.”
Aldrin went on to detail how the pair also experienced the effects of this low gravity during their ascent off the Moon.
He continued: “So we went through the countdown and when the call came from Earth, I had planned ahead what I was going to say.
“When the lunar module takes off it’s about 1g, but that’s six times the gravity, so we leave pretty, pretty rapidly.
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“The ascent engine is fixed, so it’s a rather sloppy feeling, but it’s what’s expected, there was nothing wrong.
“When the engine cut-off, we were ready to go into orbit.”
This month marks 51 years since the first successful mission of Apollo.
NASA has stated that it wants to see a male and female crew return to the Moon as early as 2024, but many in the space community feel they should bypass the Moon and head to Mars.
Both the lunar return mission and one to Mars are major projects, which require a huge amount of capital shifting a greater focus on the private sector, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.