This Friday, Buzz Aldrin will be landing on the moon again—this time in the 3-D, computer-generated film, Fly Me to the Moon. In the kiddie flick, Aldrin voices a digital version of himself during the historic Apollo 11 moon landing mission in 1969. The story follows three adventure-seeking young houseflies that stow on board the NASA spacecraft.
ScientificAmerican.com spoke to Aldrin by phone about the movie and about NASA, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Aldrin has some reservations about the agency's planned return trip by 2020. He also foresees trouble ahead as the era of the space shuttle, the launch vehicle NASA has used since 1981 to put astronauts into low Earth orbit, ends in 2010. He also has some thoughts on fellow astronaut Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to visit the moon, who has claimed that U.S. government has been hiding evidence of aliens for over 60 years. An edited interview transcript follows.
Tell us about Fly Me to the Moon.
Well, I think the movie is a marvelous combination of timely historical events and animation. The film showcases some of the [historical] achievements that I think need to be recognized by young people, voters
, and the candidates for the office that will direct the space program for the next four years. I think events in the film were depicted accurately. Much of what happened on the [Apollo 11] mission, like the landing of the lunar module, has to be animated, because there wasn't anyone there to take pictures. You still have to put on [the 3-D] glasses to see the really exciting parts [in the movie] that cause the kids to scream a bit. Overall, I think Fly Me to the Moon is valuable as inspiration for children and I was happy to be a small part of it.
What do you think of NASA's current priorities?
I think we're too obsessed with short-term objectives and what satisfies the public thirst for immediate solutions to problems as well as [their] thirst for news. The media market gets in a frenzy about fixing a problem instead of looking at the longer-term progress of humanity.
That's what I'm trying to impress on those who motivate NASA and the leadership of this country. It doesn't mean vacillating back and forth between programs; it means that we have to be judicious in all these things and be reasonable. In the past I think we had examples of being flexible and how to avoid gaps in development, and I think we are in danger of not having that now as we transition from the shuttle and the station to more exploration and space commerce.