Transcript: Buzz Aldrin on 'FNS'

Published July 20, 2009

| FoxNews.com

The following is a rush transcript of the July 19, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NEIL ARMSTRONG: The Eagle has landed.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: On July 16th, 1969, three American astronauts — Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins — began a rendezvous with history.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

(UNKNOWN): Good luck and godspeed.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

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(UNKNOWN): Ignition sequence starts.

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WALLACE: Their rocket roared into space and headed for the moon. Four days later, the lunar module, named the Eagle, touched down on the Sea of Tranquility.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ARMSTRONG: Houston, the Eagle has landed.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WALLACE: Man was on the moon.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ARMSTRONG: It's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

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WALLACE: And like explorers before them, they planted their flag on the lunar surface.

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(UNKNOWN): They've got the flag up now, and you can see the stars and stripes.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WALLACE: On this 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, we are honored to have with us the man who was holding that American flag, Buzz Aldrin.

And, Buzz, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."

BUZZ ALDRIN, ASTRONAUT: That was a proud moment, to be a military person and to salute that flag on the surface of the moon.

WALLACE: I would think. I want to take care of some sad business first. As you know, Walter Cronkite passed away Friday night. What are your thoughts about him as a man and also as someone who, I think you'd agree, helped sell the space program to the American people?

ALDRIN: Absolutely, he was the strongest supporter. There were other people, different networks — Roy Neel, Jules Bergman. They've all passed away. But Walter was the strongest, I think, and the — and the persistent one right from the very beginning.

He supported all things that the astronauts have done, and the scholarship foundation all Hall of Fame, and things of that nature. But of course, I think on this occasion he's best remembered for being a little speechless with his glasses up on his forehead and with Wally Schirra kind of mopping his brow.

You know, millions of people saw that, or — some may, a lot of people. But we didn't. We didn't see that till we got back on the carrier. And we were on the carrier, and they showed us the reaction of the crew — the crew to the people cheering all — and I just had an impulse to tap Neil on the shoulder and say, "Hey, Neil, look up there. We missed the whole thing."

WALLACE: Let's go back to 40 years ago tomorrow. What has stayed with you? What do you remember most about your 21.5 hours on the moon?

ALDRIN: What I want to remember most is the glance between Neil and myself, with the engine shut off, just those seconds after we touched down, because we had just completed the most critical door opening for exploration in — in all of humanity.

We came along at just the right time, the three of us, all born in 1930, to be given such a marvelous opportunity. And for me to accompany one of the best test pilots that's ever come along and demonstrated the X-15, and — I couldn't ask for a better commander.

WALLACE: When you first set foot on the moon, you famously called it magnificent desolation.

ALDRIN: Yes.

WALLACE: Take us to the lunar surface. How can it be magnificent and desolate at the same time?

ALDRIN: Yes. Well, you know, the comedians sometimes like for me to describe the comedy as an absurdity, thrown into a normal situation and then treated as if nothing else happened, like when we were cleared for liftoff.

I said, "Roger, Houston, we're number one on the runway." Well, that — you've got two of them right there in one sentence.

Well, magnificence is the achievement of humanity to be able to get there and for us to be a part of that, to carry that out. But the scene was so desolate, so totally lifeless. It probably hadn't changed much in 100,000 years.

The sun goes over in 14 days. It gets hotter than — and it gets colder. It's not a hospitable place. You have to really have a very compelling reason to invest in human habitation.

WALLACE: We're going to talk about the future in a moment, but I want to talk about your new book, which you call "Magnificent Desolation," and in which, quite frankly, you talk openly about what a tough time you had when you returned from the moon — alcohol, depression, divorce.

And you weren't the only one. There were a number of Apollo astronauts who had tough times. Was it that at age 39 you knew you'd already reached the summit of your life?

ALDRIN: I don't think so. I certainly hope not. But the steps after that I — that came to me — I had wanted to transition back into the military that I came from, and the best way to do that would have been after 11 years as commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy.

I'd been there as aide to the dean of faculty when it first opened up. I was not a trained test pilot. By sort of design, I wanted to be more of an analyst and a deep thinker, looking into the future as a technology person — how can we do things better? — rather than just a precise operator, recorder, of what is happening to machines right now.

WALLACE: So why do you think you had such a tough time? You say in the book from the age of 45 to 55 that you were essentially non- functional.

ALDRIN: Yes. Yes, at a very crucial transition point. And it really started a little bit earlier than that...

(CROSSTALK)

ALDRIN: ... 42...

WALLACE: And why did — why do you think you have such problems?

ALDRIN: ... when I was trying to transition from a very structured career — West Point at the age of 17, very structured, goal oriented. I get in the Air Force and immediately I'm in the Korean War.

That's impressive, but it's responsibility — shot down two airplanes, came back, trained people, was at the Air Force Academy. Then I ran into my good friend from West Point, Ed White, in the fighter squadron in Germany. He rotated back.

We eventually went on alert with nuclear weapons. That's a sobering thing for a guy in his 20s.

WALLACE: So how did you turn things around from that terrible down period?

ALDRIN: I got help. And I opened up. It just seemed to me an appropriate thing to do to discuss this in an op-ed piece in the L.A. Times. As a result of that, I was on the board of directors, the National Association for Mental Health. We proceeded with the book. And then I was national chairman for mental health.

It's not what I set out as a son of an aviator, pioneering aviation family — to be associated with mental health. It was not an encouraging situation in my life to go back to the Air Force, see that that didn't work out, then I'm — from the frying pan into the fire, sort of, with an unstructured life, not knowing what to do yet.

WALLACE: But the fact is you did.

ALDRIN: Well, but I got into escapism, addiction, and I certainly inherited that. My mother committed suicide a year before I went to the moon, and her father committed suicide before I was born, as an army chaplain.

I could see that the structure and the unstructure (ph) with not knowing exactly what to do, for me to decide what to do, was kind of tearing my life apart. And in a way, the way of salvation, the way of recovery, was by getting someone else to tell me what to do.

WALLACE: We have a few minutes left, and I want to talk about the future of the space program, because I know you want to talk about it.

We haven't been back to the moon since 1972. NASA has focused on the shuttle and what you call low-earth orbit. Was that a mistake? Did we take a wrong turn?

ALDRIN: No. We advanced technology in space capability so much in order to challenge our nation and beat the Soviets, and we succeed in doing that. And the Soviet Union came apart much sooner than anybody thought.

Now, what did we do? We wanted to consolidate what we hadn't done, so we wanted to develop reusable transportation and a laboratory to go to. That's two things. Well, we — in our process to do that, we were maybe a little overconfident. Shuttle didn't live up to expectations, didn't fly once a week, ever. Nine people was the maximum we could put in. It cost more than the Saturn 5.

WALLACE: But looking forward, you say that what we should do is not go back to the moon, which is what the current NASA plan is.

You say that 20 years from now, on the 60th anniversary, we ought to be landing on Mars. With all the — all the problems that are out there — and it's the same question that guys like you were asked in the '60s — why spend that money? What do we get out of it?

ALDRIN: That's a little optimistic, by the 60th. By the 50th, we should — we should confirm a pathway that we could take now that doesn't abandon the moon. It puts us in the experienced leadership position with other nations to form an international lunar economic development...

WALLACE: Why the ultimate goal of Mars?

ALDRIN: Because it's much more suitable to earthlings, much more habitable. It's possibly the source of life. It could have been the source of our life and our — it is much easier to approach once you get there. It has a moon that goes around very close, every seven hours. From that location, we can control things on the surface.

That can be, by the 50th anniversary, our confirmation of the pathway. We commit to people on Phobos, and then as we learn more, then we commit to people on the surface.

It's progressive. It's very exciting to do. And it's a pathway that does not ignore the moon. It's a — an affordable pathway right now, if we decide to make a change. And I think we should make a change.

WALLACE: Buzz Aldrin, we want to thank you so much for being here today. You are an American hero and it is an honor — honor — to share this weekend with you, sir.

ALDRIN: Thank you, Chris. You did well in inheriting your father's capabilities, and Roger should be proud.

WALLACE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

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