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Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon [Hardcover]

Buzz Aldrin , Ken Abraham
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 23 2009
Forty years ago, Buzz Aldrin became the second human, minutes after Neil Armstrong, to set foot on a celestial body other than the Earth. The event remains one of mankind’s greatest achievements and was witnessed by the largest worldwide television audience in history. In the years since, millions more have had their Earth-centric perspective unalterably changed by the iconic photograph of Aldrin standing on the surface of the moon, the blackness of space behind him and his fellow explorer and the Eagle reflected in his visor. Describing the alien world he was walking upon, he uttered the words “magnificent desolation.” And as the astronauts later sat in the Eagle, waiting to begin their journey back home, knowing that they were doomed unless every system and part on board worked flawlessly, it was Aldrin who responded to Mission Control’s clearance to take off with the quip, “Roger. Understand. We’re number one on the runway.”

The flight of Apollo 11 made Aldrin one of the most famous persons on our planet, yet few people know the rest of this true American hero’s story. In Magnificent Desolation, Aldrin not only gives us a harrowing first-person account of the lunar landing that came within seconds of failure and the ultimate insider’s view of life as one of the superstars of America’s space program, he also opens up with remarkable candor about his more personal trials–and eventual triumphs–back on Earth. From the glory of being part of the mission that fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge to reach the moon before the decade was out, Aldrin returned home to an Air Force career stripped of purpose or direction, other than as a public relations tool that NASA put to relentless use in a seemingly nonstop world tour. The twin demons of depression and alcoholism emerged–the first of which Aldrin confronted early and publicly, and the second of which he met with denial until it nearly killed him. He burned through two marriages, his Air Force career came to an inglorious end, and he found himself selling cars for a living when he wasn’t drunkenly wrecking them. Redemption came when he finally embraced sobriety, gained the love of a woman, Lois, who would become the great joy of his life, and dedicated himself to being a tireless advocate for the future of space exploration–not only as a scientific endeavor but also as a thriving commercial enterprise.

These days Buzz Aldrin is enjoying life with an enthusiasm that reminds us how far it is possible for a person to travel, literally and figuratively. As an adventure story, a searing memoir of self-destruction and self-renewal, and as a visionary rallying cry to once again set our course for Mars and beyond, Magnificent Desolation is the thoroughly human story of a genuine hero.

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"Buzz Aldrin relives the Magnificent Desolation of space, and the soul-sucking depression that awaited back home."
Vanity Fair, “Hot Type”

"An admirable account of an icon of the golden age of space flight."
Kirkus Reviews

“Space fans, in particular, will cheer.”

“Aldrin presents a no-holds-barred account of how his celebrity, career and human weaknesses nearly destroyed his life….This inspiring story exhibits Aldrin as a different, perfectly human kind of hero, giving readers a sympathetic look at a man eclipsed by his own legend.”
Publishers Weekly

“Buzz Aldrin relives the Magnificent Desolation of space, and the soul-sucking depression that awaited back home."
Vanity Fair, “Hot Type”

“Riveting reading.”
The Economist

“Leads the field of new releases.The candid portrayal of his earthly battles—often written with great humor—make this a cut above the rest….Great holiday reading.”
New Scientist

“Captivating….an engaging first-hand account by one of history’s most important explorers.”
Alive East Bay

About the Author

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts BUZZ ALDRIN and Neil Armstrong landed their lunar module on the Sea of Tranquillity and became the first humans to walk on the moon. Aldrin has since been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and more than fifty other awards and medals from the United States and other countries. He holds a doctorate in astronautics from MIT. Since retiring from the U.S. Air Force and NASA, Dr. Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure a continued leading role for America in manned space exploration. He founded a rocket design company, Starcraft Boosters, Inc., and the ShareSpace Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to opening the doors to space tourism for all people. Buzz and his wife, Lois, live in Los Angeles.

KEN ABRAHAM is a New York Times bestselling author, known around the world for his collaborations with celebrities and high-profile public figures.

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2.0 out of 5 stars Anybody else but Buzz was on the moon project? Aug. 30 2009
Buzz Aldrin was certainly a very brave man. His exploits were astounding but one senses a very unconfortable personnality while reading his autobiography.A little humility & a sense of being comfortable with his achivement & the recognition of important people would have made for more sympathetic reading. Joan Pagé.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Aug. 27 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very inspirational and well written. A must read for all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  71 reviews
89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did Aldrin write this? July 26 2009
By Delta Sigma - Published on
Having worked on Apollo at Kennedy, I am always eager to read the latest books about space history. While I realize that the bulk of this book has to do with Aldrin's problems he endured (and overcame) after the mission, I was quite surprised at the number and magnitude of the technical errors I noticed regarding the mission. It made me wonder just how much input Aldrin really had in the writing of this book. Surely he knows better.

A few examples: the book states that Alan Shepard's Freedom 7 reached an altitude of 62 miles (it went up 116 miles). The book repeatedly refers to multiple engines on the LM descent and ascent stages as well as on the Service Module; each of the 3 only had one engine. The book refers to the "dark side" of the moon; (there is no "dark" side, only a "far" or "back" side). Even the text on the LM commemoration plaque is misquoted. There are many more.

There is a photo whose caption states it is taken after Aldrin's Gemini 12 EVA. If this is true, who took it from outside the spacecraft? It is actually a photo (JSC image S66-59907) taken prior to liftoff. (The visor protective cover is still in place.)

All in all, I still enjoyed the book, but I am always suspect about the rest of the book when I am able to find so many errors in the parts I am familiar with. But these errors in no way detract from my admiration of the man.

UPDATE: Aldrin's secretary contacted me to discuss the errors I noticed and requested a copy of my list; hopefully they will make it into the next printing.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but could have been so much better Dec 30 2009
By Erik Nielsen - Published on
I'm a big fan of Buzz Aldrin and the space program in general, but I was disappointed by this book. The first part about the moon landing was interesting, and there were some interesting tidbits about how he felt during the whole thing.

The second part about his struggles back on Earth, and the end of his first marriage, are also interesting, although somewhat flat. That period of his life had to be deeply emotional for him, yet he relays the story as if he was reading the weather report. Mr. Aldrin is clearly an emotionally reserved man, which makes the fact that he even attempted this book something of an accomplishment. The story is interesting as far as it goes, but lacks any real depth.

The third part of the book, about his current wife Lois and his current jet-setting lifestyle, is the most disappointing. Buzz spends pages at a time essentially telling us about all of the celebrities he is close personal friends with, and how wonderful Lois is. However, he continues to break the cardinal rule of storytelling, in that he constantly tells us without really showing us. He keeps saying Lois is great, but never really gives us any real window into their lives together except to describe her apparent role as his business manager. His laundry list of celebrity acquaintances quickly becomes tedious, and comes across as bragging more than anything else. Buzz is an American hero in his own right, and it's puzzling why he feels the need to name drop to such a degree.

I think no less of Mr. Aldrin for attempting this book, but in the final analysis, it's so much less than it could have been.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the worst biography, not the best either Nov. 14 2009
By Fuzzy Lizard - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book starts out with the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 and takes it from there. You read about how Mr. Aldrin dealt with depression and alcoholism in the years after the historic moon landing. The book is very interesting until about the halfway mark. Then it seems to be all about his wife, Lois and Mr. Aldrin just briefly touching on stuff he's doing(skiing, working on his Mars Cycler, making appearances in t.v. shows, etc.) The book kind of lost me there. It seemed to drag and I found myself skimming just to get to anything interesting and to finish the book.
"Magnificent Desolation" tells the reader nothing of Mr. Aldrin's growing up years and does not go into detail about him being a fighter pilot or how the selection process to him becoming an astronaut went down. I guess that is all covered in Mr. Aldrin's first book, "Return to Earth".
Overall, an ok read.
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
By Rick Shaq Goldstein - Published on
On July 20, 1969 man first walked on the moon. The second man who walked on the moon that day was the author Buzz Aldrin. The title of this book came from Buzz's description of what he saw on the moon. It also aptly describes what his life became when he returned to earth. In a perfect definition of the phrase... "BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!"... Buzz did not enjoy the adulation and hero worship which necessitated appearances and speeches in front of large crowds throughout the world. His life evolved into deep depression and uncontrollable alcoholism. There were times he wouldn't get out of bed for days. The author tends to call these periods his "BLUE FUNK. His mental and alcohol problems in the face of worldwide acclaim sounded eerily similar to that of Ira Hayes one of the five Marines who raised the American Flag at Iwo Jima. Luckily Buzz has now been sober for thirty years.

The first few chapters of the book lead the reader from Aldrin getting ready to board the Apollo 11 craft for the historic trip to the moon... the actual landing and "moon-walk"... and their return to earth. The insights shared with the reader are exhilarating and reinforce what an absolute marvel space flight is. "THE LIFTOFF FROM THE MOON WAS INTRINSICALLY A TENSE TIME FOR ALL OF US. THE ASCENT STAGE SIMPLY HAD TO WORK. THE ENGINES HAD TO FIRE, PROPELLING US UPWARD, LEAVING THE DESCENT STAGE OF THE LM STILL SITTING ON THE MOON. WE HAD NO MARGIN FOR ERROR, NO SECOND CHANCES, NO RESCUE PLANS IF THE LIFTOFF FAILED. THERE WOULD BE NO WAY FOR MIKE UP IN COLUMBIA TO RETRIEVE US. WE HAD NO PROVISION FOR ANOTHER TEAM TO RACE FROM EARTH TO PICK US UP IF THE EAGLE DID NOT SOAR. NOR DID WE HAVE FOOD, WATER, OR OXYGEN FOR MORE THAN A FEW HOURS."

Upon his return to earth... between meeting Presidents... Kings... and Queens... Buzz did not know what to do with his life... so his depression and alcohol use steadily increased. He cheated on his first wife... and left her to marry another woman... who instead married someone else. He married a second time and that failed... and during the period following the moon landing his performance as an Air Force base commander... which he wasn't really qualified for... led to an embarrassing retirement from the military. The next two-thirds of the book leaves the reader feeling sorry for the author as he battles his demons... but then he starts boasting that he's known as a "player"... in his earlier days he would have called himself a playboy. And just when you're worried about his lack of income he casually states "LOIS AND I HOPPED IN MY RED MERCEDES-BENZ CONVERTIBLE..." Lois is his new love and many chapters are spent on her background... their romance... their marriage... and the fact that Lois is worth millions upon millions due to her families banking interests.

This is the story of a man who attended West Point... became a fighter pilot during the Korean conflict... earned a doctorate at MIT... became an astronaut who walked on the moon... cheated on his wife... has fought depression and alcoholism... just like millions of other people on this earth.

I guess this story proves that even astronauts who leave their footprints on the face of the moon... have *FEET-OF-CLAY!*
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mostly a self-absorbed tantrum Aug. 16 2009
By Big Monster Truck - Published on
The book had potential, and although it may have been a breakthrough in the 70s for a tough-guy hero to announce he suffered from depression and alcoholism, it is a tired, old story by now. At the beginning of the book, I felt for the guy, but as he rambles on for page after page of his angst, it gets old fast. He places blame on others abundantly, all the time denying that he does. This book has little to do with the space program, but the first three stories gives a summary of the mission. If he would have stayed to topic, it may have been a decent read.
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