SUMMIT — The second man to walk on the moon mere moments after Neil Armstrong’s historic first steps was on a new mission in Summit last week.
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin visited Oak Knoll School on Thursday with a message to the young students in grades 3 through 12: Trying your hardest to be the best you can be — in school, in work and in life — should be a definitive goal.
This lesson couldn’t come from a more powerful source, as the second man to beat the Russians in the great space race of the 60s outlined how his life took him from a young student to a living piece of world history.
“You can never tell what your going to stand on. Generally you stand on the shoulders of those who came before you,” Aldrin said to the packed auditorium referencing the role of parents in children’s lives. “We did the same thing in the space program.”
Aldrin went on the recount a moment in his childhood when he became more determined to do something with his life.
“I remember when my mother told me, from now on everything you do is really going to count. My father was an aviator, and my mother was born the same year that the Wright brothers flew an airplane. Sixty-six years later we landed on the moon,” he said, alluding to the future of those young minds in front of him.
“All of you should be proud of the education you’re getting here,” he said. “What will happen in the next 66 years?”
Referencing the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock with no intentions of going back home, Aldrin discussed what he saw as the eventuality of man flying to Mars.
“The pilgrims on the Mayflower came to settle. And just like that, when we send people to Mars, they will be permanent settlers. We’re going to send some very special people to start a colony on Mars,” he said. “They will become those first pioneers.”
Seeming to encourage the impressionable minds to realize that anything is attainable through enough perseverance and hard work, Aldrin discussed a possible role the United States could play in the future of space travel.
The moon, he says, is a necessary destination needed to practice colonization of Mars. Putting a base or colony on the moon would prepare humans for the inevitable trip to Mars, but because of the grand distance, any colonization trip would likely not include a return ticket.
Aldrin said the United States should be working to send other countries to the moon, using its expertise to continue being a leader in space travel. But he also made mention of the ongoing private space race.
A lot of people thought the first people to go to Mars would be government astronauts. They were wrong.”
Aldrin even talked about the first space tourist, and his current mission.
In 2001, Dennis Tito, a wealthy businessman, spent $20 million to ride a Russian rocket into space to become the first space tourist. But just last week, Tito announced his involvement in the non-profit Inspiration Mars Foundation, which hopes to take advantage of a planetary alignment in 2018 and send a man and a woman on a round trip loop around Mars. The close confinement of living quarters would require two individuals to live in extremely close proximity to each other for 501 days, which would be considered a shortened trip.
And while Adrin’s trip to the moon will live on forever in history as one of man’s greatest achievements, he seemed to allude to the fact that putting a man on Mars would be so colossal on scale, that his fame might be dwarfed.
“Kennedy sent us to the moon. That was just 12 guys kicking up a little dust.”
Aldrin, who legally changed his name to Buzz in the 1980s and inspired the name for the character Buzz Lightyear of “Toy Story,” is often an outspoken supporter of the space program, lobbying for more funding and more missions for NASA. And while much of what he said may have flown over the heads of some of the younger students, his message was very clear at times.
Before the Wright brothers, the sky limited man. Until man went into space, the sky was the limit. But once man landed on the moon, the boundaries were shattered. There is no longer a limit to man’s capabilities. And every child and every student, if they work hard enough, can achieve anything.
There is no greater example of the limitless potential of man than the living, breathing, walking and talking museum of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Aldrin was introduced by student council president Hailey Shaffer, who expressed joy at his appearance on behalf of the student body.
“We are truly over the moon to have you with us here today,” she said.
Aldrin is likely hoping that someday, those words will be literally true, as the children of tomorrow decide to shoot past the moon with their studies, and aim for Mars and the outer reaches of the solar system, and “to infinity and beyond.”