Buzz Aldrin, the legendary moon-walking astronaut, spent this afternoon answering the Internet's questions on Reddit.
He writes about how he thinks an American Mars landing isn't far off, explains why tourism to Mars isn't practical, describes eating "very very tasty" shrimp cocktail in space, reveals which outer space movies are most realistic (Gravity was the best he's seen, even though some scenes were exaggerated), and tells how he got the nickname Buzz (his sister said "buzzard" instead of "brother" when he was a baby).
The entire thing is worth reading, but Aldrin's description of the moon—setting foot on it was like walking on "moist talcum powder," he says—is particularly memorable:
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.
Oh, and lest we all get too romantic about the universe, Aldrin's prepared to keep us on track: "I have heard Frank Sinatra sing 'Fly me to the Moon' almost too many times," he wrote. "So I'm interested in composing a new song, entitled 'Get your ass to Mars!'"
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.