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tofu
2007-Jun-13, 06:27 PM
The science channel is showing the miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon - it's the first time I've seen it. In last night's episode Buzz Aldrin was depicted as being very upset that he didn't get to be the first person to walk on the moon. They made him seem rather petty about it. Apparently, he even went behind Armstrong's back to talk to someone (the name didn't ring a bell with me) and said that it was bad for morale that the decision about who should be first wasn't made by someone in NASA administration.

Did any of that actually happen, or is it just dramatization?

schlaugh
2007-Jun-13, 08:42 PM
"Aldrin lobbied very strongly to be the first one out of the lunar module and thus the first man to set foot on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission."

The cite to this line is included in the Wikipedia article and is based on an interview with Gene Cernan, the most recent man to walk on the moon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buzz_Aldrin

schlaugh
2007-Jun-13, 08:54 PM
Also, the decision about who would go first is included in several books, including the Andrew Chaikinsource book for the FTETTM series. It's also described in the Neil Armstrong bio in Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neil_Armstrong

tofu
2007-Jun-13, 09:02 PM
ok, thanks for the info!

Jason Thompson
2007-Jun-14, 03:07 PM
Apparently, he even went behind Armstrong's back to talk to someone (the name didn't ring a bell with me) and said that it was bad for morale that the decision about who should be first wasn't made by someone in NASA administration.

Of course, one could argue that the only morale that suffered was his, and those of the people he pestered about it. According to a number of anecdotes, Aldrin was known as a very competent astronaut, but wouldn't be likely to win any popularity contests. The 'Dr Rendezvous' tag he acquired at NASA was apparently not meant affectionately....

The telling thing, to me at least, is that this stuff about Buzz lobbying to be first out etc. has been published widely, and I'm not aware that Aldrin has ever contradicted it. Does anyone know what, if anything, Aldrin has said on the subject since?

Moose
2007-Jun-14, 03:51 PM
Does anyone know what, if anything, Aldrin has said on the subject since?

That gets brought up from time to time on interviews (obliquely). He seems to have gotten over the disappointment, or at least doesn't let it show at all.

Between that and the contrast between the discomfort during interviews depicted during FtEttM and how much he seems to enjoy (legit) interviews whenever I've seen him speak, I have to question whether the portrayal of his less attractive side was not exaggerated somewhat, perhaps grossly.

The biographies I've read would also suggest that FtEttM may have canonized Dave Scott somewhat (or at least white-washed how he was seen by the NASA uppers), and may have portrayed Jack Schmitt as being a bit nicer than one would expect of the reputation he seems to have earned as someone who supposedly has a noticeably low tolerance for nonsense and ignorance.

Now, I don't actually mind a bit of judicious "airbrushing" of their characters. We all need heroes, after all. I just feel it's more than a bit unfair if they've emphasized or exaggerated Buzz Aldrin's "flaws" while hiding everyone else's.

AGN Fuel
2007-Jun-22, 02:42 AM
In last night's episode Buzz Aldrin... went behind Armstrong's back to talk to someone (the name didn't ring a bell with me) and said that it was bad for morale that the decision about who should be first wasn't made by someone in NASA administration.

Did any of that actually happen, or is it just dramatization?


(Sorry to bump this, but I saw this episode again last night)

In the show, Buzz indicated that he had called George Low. About that time, Low would have been head of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office.

Dr Nigel
2007-Jun-22, 03:19 PM
Also, the decision about who would go first is included in several books, including the Andrew Chaikin source book for the FTETTM series. ...

Well, I wasn't so sure about this. From my copy of Andrew Chaikin's A Man on the Moon (Penguin Books, London, 1998, pp 148 - 149):


...More than one astronaut remembers that Aldrin payed a visit, checklist in hand, explaining the operational merits of having the lunar module pilot get out first.

So he wasn't so much campaigning for himself as for all the LMPs (hey, the mission commander gets to fly the LM!). And he did have sound technical reasons to back up his claim.


...But in the end, there was something more decisive, outside the whims of human emotions. It was the lunar module's front hatch. The lunar module cabin had about as much space as a large broom closet. For one astronaut to go outside, the other man would have to hold the hatch open and stand back in his corner. The departing astronaut would then get down on his stomach and wriggle through an opening only 32 inches square. Getting out of the LM wasn't like going down a gangplank; it was more like being born. Years earlier, when the first landing was still a long way off, Grumman engineers had designed the hatch so that it opened from left to right - that is, toward the lunar module pilot's side of the cabin. The only way Aldrin could get out ahead of Armstrong would be if the men first changed places. That would have been possible for two men in street cothes, but not encased in pressurized suits and massive backpacks. One day Aldrin and Armstrong tried it, fully suited, in a lunar module mockup, and they damaged the cabin. Deke Slayton was there; he saw the damage, and he told himself the situation would have to change.

Mission planners had quietly come to the same conclusion in February [1969], but well into the spring, Aldrin and Armstrong had not learned of any decision...

Apparently, Aldrin heard some rumours that a decision had been made for Armstrong to go out first, and that the decision was because Armstrong was a civilian. According to Chaikin, Buzz was angered by the implied slight to the air force.

So it all came down to NASA mission planners' failure to communicate their decision, and the reasoning behind it, to the crew.

ETA: If Buzz was upset, it was because (a) the mission planners did not communicate appropriately with the crew on this topic; (b) the rumoured reason was political, not technical or operational; and (c) the rumoured reason was an insult to Buzz's service (the air force).

According to Chaikin, Buzz went to talk to Armstrong about it (before the official decision was communicated). In Aldrin's recollection, Armstrong replied that he didn't want to "rule himself out"; whereas Armstrong does not recall the conversation - he only recalls that Aldrin seemed quite focussed on the issue for a while.