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Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey…

Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon

by Buzz Aldrin

Other authors: Ken Abraham (Author)

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In Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon, Buzz Aldrin chronicles both his personal struggles and continued aerospace work following his historic Apollo 11 mission. He writes of the period following the moon landing, "With no mission or goal on which to focus, those words I'd uttered on the moon - 'magnificent desolation' - mocked me as a poignant description of my life on Earth" (p. 144). Aldrin's autobiographical account of his life after returning to Earth focuses on two main subjects: his struggles with depression and alcoholism, which he candidly discusses in the hope that his honesty will help others; and his work to further space exploration and develop space tourism.
In chronicling his struggle with depression and alcoholism, Aldrin demonstrates that even those people who are nearly universally adored are still human. He does not shy away from his bleaker moments and does not make excuses. In taking responsibility for his past, Aldrin shows how others can follow his example and seek the help they need and overcome their own struggles.
In discussing the future of space travel, Aldrin writes, "I truly believe that we have the universe at our fingertips. We were on the right track when we took the challenge laid down by President Kennedy, and we will continue on the right track if we expand upon that commitment" (p. 307). Aldrin remains among the hardest working (and smartest) people in aerospace, continually thinking up new methods to improve America's space program or spark an interest in young people to pursue privatized space travel. His continued commitment should stand as a challenge to NASA and America to reinvigorate our space program. Aldrin implores his readers, "Please keep this dream alive; please keep going; Mars is there waiting for your footsteps" (p. 309).
Those looking for an account of NASA in the 1960s and the early years of Project Apollo should read Men from Earth, also by Aldrin. Magnificent Desolation is, as the subtitle suggests, about Aldrin's life following his Apollo mission, though it will still be interesting to those interested in space travel, both historic and prospective ideas for the future. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Nov 25, 2015 |
This was not at all the book I was expecting. I was anticipating a narrative of Buzz Aldrin's early life, military training and recruitment into the astronaut program that ultimately resulted in him being on the first lunar landing mission. The the first chapter starts in the final nerve racking moments as Armstrong and Aldrin are landing of the moon. After that it tells the story of how a relentlessly goal driven and overachieving man is now left with the realization that he has accomplished all he has set out to do in life with more than half his life remaining. The result was a trail of depression, alcoholism, and failed marriages that took decades to overcome. It was a sad side of Aldrin I had never realized and I'm glad he told us about it in this book. ( )
  joeteo1 | Apr 6, 2013 |
"The transition from 'astronaut preparing to accomplish the next big thing' to 'astronaut telling about the last big thing' did not come easily to me."

"While on the surface of the moon, I had taken in the pervasive gray-ash barrenness all around, with the Earth hanging off in space like a tiny blue-green orb, and had called it 'magnificent desolation'. Now those words seemed to describe my own inner turmoil as I thought about the days ahead."

It's not uncommon for great men to self-destruct, to act-out, the news is full of examples. I had never really heard about Buzz Aldrin, the alcoholic, or Buzz Aldrin the depressive. Apparently I haven't been paying attention. But Aldrin is more than candid in this telling, describing the days he couldn't get through without a bottle. The times he couldn't bring himself to crawl out of one of his 'blue funks'. His affairs and girlfriends. His therapy doctors, his AA meetings, it goes on. I was expecting more of a general biography but instead stumbled upon this great cathartic airing of dirty laundry. And then the last third turned into this long epistle about his third wife and how she saved. his. life. He gave us more of her biographical data then his own. Terribly disappointing. ( )
  VictoriaPL | Jun 10, 2012 |
What do you do once you have been to the moon and back? In this candid memoir, Buzz Aldrin explores both his journeys: the one to the moon that made him so famous, and the one he started once his feet were firmly back on Earth. Aldrin gives a detailed account of his landing on and exploring the surface of the moon with fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first men to ever set foot on a celestial body other than Earth. This exploration made Aldrin one of the most famous people on the planet, and NASA used that to full advantage. Over the next years, NASA sent Aldrin on a new journey, this time all on Earth: a spokesperson for space exploration and NASA. However, this journey caused Aldrin’s near downfall; he spiraled into depression and alcoholism, reeling without a purpose. His demons destroyed two marriages, ruined his life and career, and nearly killed him. The only way for Aldrin to save himself was to recognize that the way he was handling his feelings and his life was only destructive. He was able to come to terms with his destructive ways, find the love of a wonderful woman, give himself new purpose and direction in life, and begin his third journey: that of a man with renewed enthusiasm for life. A very accessible and honest read, Magnificent Desolation shows that even our heroes have their weaknesses and that it is possible to overcome them. ( )
  litgirl29 | Jun 15, 2010 |
For most of us, whether we want to admit it or not, the highlight of our lives, the event which we define ourselves, the successful summit to the Mt. Olympus of our existence, happened before we were 25.

For an aerospace engineer with an inquisitive and fertile mind it seemed a disappointment that it happened at age 39.

This book is divided into three parts.
Part 1: Getting to the moon and back.
A fascinating first hand account which I, for one, cannot get enough and worth the price of the book.
I can't begin imagine going on a mission where "plan B" is to cut off communications and let me die - or that 1,000 things need to go absolutely right for a success - all run by a ... 74K computer?????

I can't imagine what not being afraid to die feels like.

Part 2: Dr. Aldrin's fight with depression and alcoholism.
I can certainly understand how being in space, looking down on earth and realizing how insignificant we all are is a crushing blow to any human being and especially ones with huge egos...you know...like astronauts.

It is fascinating to read about Dr. Aldrin's depression, his understanding of the problem and his long term solutions to dealing with it.
Even though I don't understand addicts, nor do I think that there is anything heroic about fighting an addiction (because you shouldn't have became an addict in the first place) I do recognize the achievement of beating addictions as well as the strength, perseverance and emotional toll it took for Dr. Aldrin to admit to it publicly and, in that act alone, help multitudes of people.

Part 3: Dr. Aldrin's push to make space travel affordable.
The first two parts of the book are very interesting, this part falls short.
We get a glimpse into the genius which is Buzz Aldrin and his fight to promote space travel (as well as himself, but who could blame him).

I think the book could use a bit of re-writing by a "commoner". It's almost insulting to read that Dr. Aldrin and his lovely wife say they had no income in one paragraph, yet they travel the globe, take ski vacations, go diving around the world and drive luxury cars in the next paragraph.
It just doesn't make sense and takes away from the inspirational story.

Newsflash: Most people don't make a quarter million dollars a year so it's hard to feel bad for someone who does even if they should make more or all their friends are multi-millionaires.
It just doesn't resonate.

The last few pages have a problem that most of us encounter on almost a daily base - what's written doesn't translate to the way it was meant to be read.
Ever had someone misunderstand an e-mail you wrote because they read it in the wrong "tone" of which you wrote it, or didn't get the sarcasm?

These pages come off as boasting and name dropping which I'm sure wasn't the intention.
For example, Dr. Aldrin's great anecdote about giving a speech in Madrid, Spain and not knowing anyone in town with a few hours to kill so he called King Juan Carlos.
I found it to be funny and I can only imagine the look on his wife's face - but it reads more like boasting than a light hearted anecdote.
By the way, I think personal anecdotes, like the story mentioned above, are great and what make an autobiography worth reading.

Even though there has been criticism of Dr. Aldrin's behavior in the past there is not a single person in the astronaut corps who has done more to promote space than the good doctor.
Not a single one!

Funny enough, the one thing which might have pushed Dr. Aldrin's agenda further into the future and get kids interested in space and science was not his doing, but Disney paying him homage in Toy Story.
Dr. Aldrin recognized the opportunity and instead of picking a fight with "the Mouse" he embraced it with both hand, not only for himself, but also for the future astronauts of this nation.

I hope Dr. Aldrin will keep working tirelessly to promote his agenda for the Mars orbiter, space tourism and educating our youth.
Keep appearing on Sesame Street, keep the late night appearances and keep being a friend to Buzz Lightyear - the best ambassador of math and science we currently have.

By the way - Dr. Aldrin can rest at ease. The big achievement of Apollo 11 was to land the Eagle on the moon, not to step off a ladder. ( )
  ZoharLaor | Jan 6, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Buzz Aldrinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abraham, KenAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307463451, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:37 -0400)

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Recounts the astronaut's life and career, including his childhood, the landmark 1969 moon landing, and his battles with alcoholism and depression after his fame.

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