Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon, July 20, 1969.
"Engineer, American astronaut, and the second person to walk on the moon during the Apollo 11 moon landing" Buzz Aldrin participated July 8 in a Reddit AMA for the promotion of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, happening on July 20.
He recounted what it was like on the moon, "My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was 'Magnificent desolation.'"
In response to a question from reddit user thekelseyscott: "Is there any experience on Earth that even compares slightly to having been on the Moon?"
Here's his full answer:
My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was "Magnificent desolation." The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream — achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate — there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.
Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away — no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up- but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.
That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.
He touched on a sensitive topic: his apparent admission that he and other astronauts had seen a UFO during the Apollo 11 mission.
This is an old favorite of internet UFO conspiracy theorists (and, sadly, the Science Channel), who are convinced that Buzz Aldrin saw an alien ship of some kind during the Apollo 11 ride and that he's been covering it up and hiding that he's a UFO believer.
According to an article on OpenMinds (a UFO truther website):
In an interview on the Science Channel in 2005, Apollo astronaut "Buzz" Aldrin said that the crew of the famous Apollo 11 mission had seen a UFO on their way to the moon. However, later Aldrin would say that his words were taken out of context, even though his story was supported on the program by senior Apollo 11 scientist, Dr. David Baker. Aldrin has also made other strange statements that some believe allude to Aldrin knowing more about an extraterrestrial presence in space than he would like to share.
The Science Channel show, "First on the Moon: The Untold Story" spurred a lot of talk about Buzz Aldrin's UFO-friendly leanings. Aldrin clarified what he saw during the July 8 AMA:
On Apollo 11 in route to the Moon, I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us. There were many explanations of what that could be, other than another spacecraft from another country or another world - it was either the rocket we had separated from, or the 4 panels that moved away when we extracted the lander from the rocket and we were nose to nose with the two spacecraft. So in the close vicinity, moving away, were 4 panels. And i feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the sun reflected off of one of these panels. Which one? I don't know. So technically, the definition could be "unidentified."
We well understood exactly what that was. And when we returned, we debriefed and explained exactly what we had observed. And I felt that this had been distributed to the outside world, the outside audience, and apparently it wasn't, and so many years later, I had the time in an interview to disclose these observations, on another country's television network. And the UFO people in the United States were very very angry with me, that i had not given them the information. It was not an alien.
Extraordinary observations require extraordinary evidence. That's what Carl Sagan said. There may be aliens in our Milky Way galaxy, and there are billions of other galaxies. The probability is almost CERTAIN that there is life somewhere in space. It was not that remarkable, that special, that unusual, that life here on earth evolved gradually, slowly, to where we are today. But the distances involved in where some evidence of life may be, they may be hundreds of light years away.
To be fair, this has all been out there for awhile. Aldrin even appeared on "Larry King" to discuss it. After the Science Channel clip came out, NASA's David Morrison checked in on Aldrin in response to an Ask an Astrobiologist question: "I just talked to Buzz Aldrin on the phone, and he notes that the quotations were taken out of context and did not convey the intended meaning ... Apparently all of this discussion about the panels was cut from the broadcast interview, thus giving the impression that they had seen a UFO."