Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon Hardcover – Jun 23 2009
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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."
“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.”
“Buzz Aldrin relives the Magnificent Desolation of space, and the soul-sucking depression that awaited back home."
–Vanity Fair, “Hot Type”
“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.”
“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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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.
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.
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!*
"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.