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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 30 August 2017
Buzz Aldrin's depiction of his moon landing is so vivid, I felt I was there with him. A truly exciting read.
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on 22 July 2017
Excellent autobiography.
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on 17 July 2009
Starting at the moon landing of Apollo 11 and moving on from there Buzz Aldrin's book shows the impact the being the second man on the moon had on his life and those around him. Never wavering from the truth Buzz talks in honest and open fashion about his personal problems with depression and alcohol abuse and his long slow recovery to again play an active role in shaping American space policy and inspiring the youth of today to take up the space challenge.

After reading some other astronauts books it's refreshing to see someone be so honest about being a hero with feet of clay, rather than quietly displaying the right stuff in every situation, but that only makes you warm to Buzz even more and make you realise that the astronauts were first and foremost human beings. Buzz's love of space exploration and his hope for the future of space travel are also fascinating and you can tell that here is a man who clearly loves the future and wants us all to go there with him.

If I have one criticism it's that we don't get to know much about pre-Apollo 11 Aldrin. There is a brief mention of time in the war in Korea and a few remarks about early times in NASA but it would have been interesting to read an account of Buzz's earlier Gemini 12 mission with that other great space hero Jim Lovell (who has also written a great biog) or some of the training which the astronauts went through as part of the moon project.

Overall through this is a great book about a unique event in history and the impact it had on one of the key participants I'd recommend it to anyone, not just space junkies, as a riveting insight into one of the key events of the late 20th century as well as a moving and supportive account of a man coming to terms with his own daemons and living to tell the tale.
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VINE VOICEon 7 March 2010
It's remarkable that less than 70 years after the first heavier than air flight in 1903, human beings were able to fly to the moon. It's even more remarkable to realise that many of today's mobile phones have more computing power than the Apollo 11 which took them there. Yet what brings everything together is the vision, courage and determination of the human race to explore more facets of their existence. For anyone who recognises that America's victory in the space race was about politics not peace then Buzz Aldrin's book is testament to the human condition.

Of the three astronauts who travelled on Apollo 11 Neil Armstrong lives in relative obscurity in Ohio, where he was born, following a successful career in education and business. Michael Collins worked for the US government and then the Smithsonian Institute before going into business on his own account while Aldrin went through two divorces, depression and alcoholism. If Aldrin has a beef with NASA it's that while they had rigorous physical examinations (which Aldrin still undertakes annually) no-one seems to have devised post space psychological tests. This is even more surprising seeing as both Armstrong and Aldrin had seen active service as fighter pilots during the Korean war.

Autobiographies are essentially self-centred otherwise they are fictitious. In Aldrin's case he finds a balance between the mission which brought him fame and the rest of his life. That life was already in a mess (along with that of several other astronauts) because of the demands of his training and work. His marriage had been drained of emotion and was in decline. It wasn't helped by his depressive personality which expressed itself in a need to set and achieve goals. It may also have been inherited as his maternal grandfather committed suicide as did his mother, who hated the publicity which came with Aldrin's fame.

Aldrin's disillusion started soon after his return from the moon. He and his colleagues went on a world tour which he considered was done as a public and political exercise. It started badly at Marquette University in Wisconsin where anti-war demonstrators and others pelted Armstrong and Aldrin with tomatoes and eggs. His sense of isolation was heightened when he started an affair with a woman who, once he had divorced his first wife, decided she wanted to marry someone else. He drifted into a second marriage, possibly on the rebound, which only lasted two years. Competitive by nature he looked for new opportunities to top his moon visit but, unsurprising, was unable to find one. Every rejection or put down was met with a resort to the bottle. It didn't help when a commemorative stamp was issued with only Armstrong's image on it.

Aldrin found difficulty in adjusting to post Apollo life in a worthwhile manner. He had several jobs but none that satisfied the standards he set for himself. It took him until 1978 to accept he was an alcoholic. Even when he did there was the continuing problem of his depression, which is only mysterious to those who have never suffered from it. Even after he married his third wife Lois, on whom he lavishes adoration and praise, he would sink into despair. Thanks to her strong personality he was dragged, often unwillingly, through it. Lois clearly means a lot to Aldrin perhaps because she brought order into his chaotic life. I'm not certain his first wife gets sufficient credit for her efforts while his second wife was a drinker like himself.

Aldrin is disappointed with the way the space programme ended. Although there is a commitment to future space travel there is insufficient commitment to guarantee it. He does not understand why economics should be allowed to stand in the way of exploration, although it may be that only those with what Harry H Corbett once called "adequate conkers" will be able to make the trip. He is an advocate of space tourism. The first such tourist Dennis Tito funded himself for a trip on a Russian space-craft in 2001 at a cost of anywhere between $12m and $20m. I don't think I'll be troubling the bank for a loan.

Aldrin eventually learned to live with fame and, by remaining sober, deal with it. There was the odd exception, particularly when he decked a conspiracy theorist who called the moon landing a hoax and Aldrin a liar. It was understandable and, in any case, who would believe anyone whose reaction to being knocked over was "Did you get that on tape?" Most Americans stood up an applauded. This book too should be applauded for its honesty. If it's too self-absorbed (September 11th does not merit a mention) that's a plus rather than a minus because it illustrates just how honest an account Aldrin has provided. I'm sure others can find greater fault in Aldrin's book than I have but, whatever its shortcomings, it's still worth four stars.
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on 27 July 2009
Having worked on Apollo at Kennedy, I am always eager to read the latest books about space history. While I realize that the bulk of this book has to do with Aldrin's problems he endured (and overcame) after the mission, I was quite surprised at the number and magnitude of the technical errors I noticed regarding the mission. It made me wonder just how much input Aldrin really had in the writing of this book. Surely he knows better.

A few examples: the book states that Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 reached an altitude of 62 miles (it went up 116 miles). The book repeatedly refers to multiple engines on the LM descent and ascent stages as well as on the Service Module; each of the 3 only had one engine. The book refers to the "dark side" of the moon; (there is no "dark" side, only a "far" or "back" side). Even the text on the LM commemoration plaque is misquoted. There are many more.

There is a photo whose caption states it is taken after Aldrin's Gemini 12 EVA. If this is true, who took it from outside the spacecraft? It is actually a photo (JSC image S66-59907) taken prior to liftoff. (The visor protective cover is still in place.)

All in all, I still enjoyed the book, but I am always suspect about the rest of the book when I am able to find so many errors in the parts I am familiar with. But these errors in no way detract from my admiration of the man.
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2010
First off - if you are looking for a gripping description of what happened during the moon landings then this book isn't for you. Aldrin's autobiography predominantly covers the years following the moon landing and how he came to terms with being one of the most recognised men on the planet. It is refreshing to read about his drift into depression and alcoholism and how they affected him and how he went about tackling these issues.

In this age of celebrity where people can become famous for having no talent and just appearing on celebrity wannabe shows, it is interesting to compare the experiences of someone who has achieved so much with what passes as celebrity today. Aldrin comes across as someone who is not able to rest on his laurels and needs to move on - almost as if accomplishing what he did on the moon was ok but needs to be topped!

As I said this is not a book to find out about the detail of the moon landings. For that I would recommend the excellent Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys by Michael Collins which is probably the best account of the Apollo 11 mission. However Aldrin's "Magnificent Desolation" is the best account of what happened next and how the experience affected one of the main players.
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on 5 September 2011
I appreciate that this is not a book restricted to the moon mission and I thought the chapters dealing with Buzz's depression and alcoholism were well written.

I am, however, at the point of giving up on this book because once you get to the point when Buzz meets his current wife Lois (apparently a perky platinum blonde from a very rich family who is just amazing), the book descends into a self indulgent and tedious level of detail about nothing very much in particular.

I would give the first third of this book 5 stars but the end is barely worth a star.

Updated - ...and after telling us how great she is, he left her for someone else.
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on 5 November 2009
First of all, it has to be said that Buzz is not a modest kind of guy. There is a certain amount to commend in this book, namely the first two thirds concerning the Apollo 11 training and landing and the subsequent unravelling of Buzz's life. However, the latter third is a homage to his third wife, Lois. An entire chapter is dedicated to her life story and Buzz makes much of her wealthy family connections. A lot of this is contained in very schmalzy and saccharine prose. I don't know how the publisher let this through as it greatly takes from the overall book and does not reflect well on the man himself. If you are interested in the Apollo 11 moon landing, there are other worthier books to peruse.
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on 4 August 2009
I think it is easy to sum up this book - if you are already a fan of Buzz Aldrin you will love it. Speaking as one, I could not put it down and finished it in one weekend. I need not summarise the man's achievements, but his shortcomings were new to me, and just as fascinating, in order to portray a rounded and truly human hero. I was also fascinated to see what one does when one returns from the moon - what do you do when the clapping stops? This gives a fascinating insight into someone having to take their achievements and leverage them to provide a meaningful existence.

Putting on my critical hat, in the latter half it pales a little, and descends into a whirl of name dropping and self-congratulatory snippets, leaping from chunk to chunk, rather than the well constructed and slowly developing narrative that took us up until his second divorce.

So, if you love Buzz, i think you'll love this. If you aren't sure, I think you'll put it down after about 200 pages.
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on 30 April 2013
As a space nut with a special interest in the Mercury and Apollo programs I have always been fascinated by the personalities of the men who risked everything to race to the moon. Knowing little of Buzz Aldrin's life since his moon missions, I wanted to get his perspective on what being an astronaut meant to him and they way it influenced his life after his walk on the moon. Aldrin gives us his view of the men behind the missions, the politics behind NASA and his reaction to how life spiralled out of control after he left NASA. Although essentially one-sided, there are nuggets of gold in his account of how he lost focus, faith and family after his moonwalk. He necessarily does get on his hobby horse when espousing his views about future space travel but however outlandish it sounds, it's great to hear such passion about space exploration in an era when, post-shuttle,we seem to have abandoned our dreams of travelling to the stars
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