Sunday, January 19, 2014

Happy Birthday, Buzz Aldrin

All the Apollo 11 astronauts were born in 1930.  Two are still with us. Buzz Aldrin turns 84 January 20. Happy Birthday, Doctor Rendezvous!
Those who know the Buzz mainly from an appearance on Dancing With The Stars may not know his contribution to Gemini and Apollo. He had the first Ph.D. in orbital rendezvous techniques and played a key role in making this crucial maneuver work. (His thesis was titled, "Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous.")

I've met Buzz a few times and always found him approachable, gregarious, and helpful. When I was giving a paper at a space conference in 1996, I noticed him about halfway through.  He'd slipped into the front row, where he was unmistakable in a red blazer and an oversized Buzz Lightyear pin. After the session, I asked him what he thought of my paper, which was on the reuse of surplus ICBMs as space boosters. (This was before today's Minotaur program.) He replied it was a good idea, but the company he was part of had a better one.  (For the record, my idea eventually became a program, though I can't claim credit for that: Buzz's, unfortunately, didn't attract financing and slipped away.)  When I saw him a few years later at the Responsive Space conference, he graciously wrote a note to my daughter's gradeschool class on a calendar and signed it for me.  We still have it.

Photo NASA

Buzz has been pushing space exploration ever since, including numerous publications and concepts for putting people on Mars. He won't make it. Likely, neither will I.  But our kids, or their kids - they will. 

So I'm wishing you a great day, Doc.

1 comment:

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Happy birthday, Buzz Aldrin! You are really a great man. It is my pleasure that I am giving the wishes to such a great man.

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