Astronaut Aldrin says Moon was his destiny

Space pioneer and statesman tells leaders at majlis lecture that the UAE’s success will come from global efforts.

Astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969. Nasa / AP Photo
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ABU DHABI // Lunar pioneer Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, shared his space journey and excitement for the UAE Mars mission during a lecture at Al Bateen palace on Wednesday.

The former Nasa astronaut addressed an audience of dignitaries and industry leaders who included Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister for Culture, Youth and Community Development, Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, Chairman of the Crown Prince Court, and members of the UAE Space Agency.

The pioneer, born Edwin Aldrin in 1930, said that he considered himself a global statesman for space.

“I’ve dedicated the last 50 years of my life to space and I don’t intend to stop very soon. This is why I’m active at the age of 85. I want the world to get excited over the space programme again, especially the younger generation,” he said.

For the UAE to be successful in its programme, Dr Aldrin said that it would take more than one nation’s efforts.

“I truly believe that mankind’s next great accomplishment in space will truly involve global participation. No single nation can accomplish these things in the future alone,” he said.

Dr Aldrin recounted his first steps onto the lunar surface with his colleague Neil Armstrong.

“As I stepped out after Neil on to the talcum-like dust of the Moon, the words that came to my mind were magnificent desolation. It was a magnificent achievement for humans on Earth to accomplish, the first time to set foot on another world,” he said.

Dr Aldrin said he considered himself to be a friend to the UAE and hoped to “continue this friendship for many years to come”. He also addressed the significance of the Mars mission, saying people ask him why we need to go to Mars or have a space programme.“By venturing into space, we improve the life for everyone here on Earth. The scientific advancements and innovation that comes with this type of research create products and technologies that we use in our daily lives, for example cell phones, TV, global positioning system, medical advances and life support,” he said.

“All of these would not have been possible without the investments in the space programme.”

The former astronaut took pride in asserting that he took the world’s first space selfie back in 1966. He took a picture of himself with the Earth behind him during the Gemini 12 mission in November 1966.

He also joked that the Moon was always his destiny, as Moon is his mother’s maiden name. His car licence plate reads “Mars Guy”, as well as his e-mail address.

Dr Aldrin’s talk was part of the majlis lecture series of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and organised by the Crown Prince Court. The series aims to enrich debate and dialogue through hosting notable speakers.

“We are honored to have Buzz Aldrin speak in Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed’s majlis lecture series,” said Shaikha Al Maskari, chief corporate officer of the UAE Space Agency. “We are working with him on several initiatives to spread awareness on the importance of the space programme that we hope would draw people in, especially youngsters.”

The Mars mission is a “breakthrough step in scientific programmes” that is “unheard of” for the region, said Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, director general of the UAE Space Agency.

“The UAE has set a really high standard, and calling the mission Hope does give hope to the region.”