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Posted on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

Buzz Aldrin, in Ann Arbor, says space exploration needs Kennedy-style public goal

By Nathan Bomey


Buzz Aldrin stands on the moon in July 1969. You can also see Neil Armstrong, who took the shot, and the lunar module in the reflection of Aldrin's visor.

Photo courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, speaking today at a business conference in Ann Arbor, called for a coordinated, international initiative to expand space exploration.

Aldrin also expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama ignored the 50th anniversary of the moment in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy challenged the U.S. to put an explorer on the moon by the end of the decade.

“I’m going to be talking to the people running against” Obama in 2012, Aldrin said.


Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second person to step onto the moon, speaks this morning at a business conference in Ann Arbor.

Angela Cesere |

He suggested that the vision for expanded space exploration needs to come in the form of a specific public objective.

In 1961, “many thought the challenge” of reaching the moon “would be impossible,” he said. “We didn’t have the knowhow, but we did have the leader with the vision, determination and confidence that we could get there."

He added: "By publicly stating our goal and putting a specific time period for achievement, a very specific accomplishment, President Kennedy gave us no backdoor. The challenged raised our spirits, reignited our can-do attitude, and brought us together as a nation.”

Aldrin, the second person to step onto the moon, spoke at a conference organized by Ann Arbor-based supply chain software firm LLamasoft, which attracted executives from major corporate clients such as General Electric, Intel, Nike and PepsiCo.

LLamasoft, which has grown from about 20 employees a year ago to more than 60 today, is riding a surge of interest in its supply chain design and management system, which helps companies reduce transportation costs, avoid logistical problems and prevent disruptions.

LLamasoft CEO Don Hicks said he anticipated the obvious question — that is, why would you invite Aldrin to speak at a supply chain design conference?

“My first answer is some combination of 'because he’s freaking cool' and 'why not' and 'because we can,'” Hicks said. “But it’s also the case that we’re trying to get to a bigger point that if you could wing it in terms of supply chain design, you’d do it. You really can’t.”

Supply chains, he said, must be meticulously mapped out and planned. Much like the Apollo 11 mission.

“They really weren’t going to wing it,” Hicks said.

Nonetheless, Aldrin said that guiding the lunar module on its 11-minute descent toward the surface of the moon at the Sea of Tranquility came quite close to “winging it” when overloaded computers caused a data screen to temporarily black out.

The error — which, Aldrin later found out, he had caused — prompted a brief moment in which Aldrin and Neil Armstrong came close to considering aborting the landing. But they called back to their command center in Houston for help — and they were cleared to land.

“It’s sort of symbolic that you need to have backup calculations,” Aldrin said. “It was thinking that got us the plan that got us to the moon. But it was courage and commitment that got us to execute and succeed.”

In the 42 years since Aldrin last stepped on the moon, he’s turned into a vocal proponent of a bulked-up space program, powered by commercial space flight operations and international cooperation.

“If we’re to do more than just visit the moon and other planetary bodies — and humans are to establish a permanent and expanding presence in space — then the nations of the world have to learn to work peacefully together as they have done on the international space station,” he said.

Aldrin emphasized that the Apollo 11 mission’s success was an achievement that “brought together humanity.”

“The benefit was worldwide,” he said. “Everyone on earth felt they had participated in this incredible journey."

He said that increased space exploration, although costly, would improve international relationships, inspire students to get interested in science and math and lead to technological advancements.

“By venturing into space we improve life for everyone here on earth,” he said.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Thu, Jun 30, 2011 : 5:27 p.m.

Buzz is right but we have been stuck with the worst president in our history who is more concerned about golfing with Wall Street billionaires then NASA. He was a socialist mediocre lawyer community organizer – what do you think he knows about our space program? Add to that the reality of the massive Obama debt, failed stimulus, failed monetary policy, baby boomers retiring, the number of unemployed increasing and the number of working Americans paying all the bills is shrinking. Remember – the government has no money – they have yours. All that means there is no money to pay for a Mars mission. If we did have the money, we would have to deal with a NASA too focused on political correctness and EEOC to attract the best and brightest scientists and engineers. The result is the once great institution is a freak show of social engineering and environmental activism rather than anything that can put together a seriously cutting edge space mission. Certainly all the mission failures over the last decade demonstrate that fact. Most annoying of all is the reality of the mission schedule and space itself. The months involved combined with background radiation mean it's likely a Mars mission either terribly dangerous or crazy expensive. …meaning that while it's possible, it may be cost prohibitive if we want the men to return alive.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Jun 30, 2011 : 1:03 a.m.

Buzz, You are exactly right, but won't happen so long as RepubliKans hold any power. The only thing they want to do is to cut taxes, destroy unions, and enrich the Koch brothers and their ilk. Good Night and Good Luck


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

President Obama is not about the "Greatness in America". He wants America to be just "another country". "President Barack Obama ignored the 50th anniversary of the moment in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy challenged the U.S. to put an explorer on the moon by the end of the decade." More proof of it above! Barrack you Rock! Hope, Peace and Change! Obama in 2012!

David Briegel

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 10:08 p.m.

You will be extremely happy with President Bachman!!


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 9:36 p.m.

"By publicly stating our goal and putting a specific time period for achievement, a very specific accomplishment, President Kennedy gave us no backdoor." The problem today is that there are no real leaders in Washington anymore with the foresight and guts to make a big goal attainable. We can't even come close to balancing our national budget, keeping our roads in decent condition, providing enough jobs for all the able-bodied workers in America, and health care that really works to keep people healthy - just to name a few big challenges. How can we possibly afford to fund or achieve another big space program?

David Briegel

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 10:07 p.m.

Don't worry. President Michelle Bachman will fix everything!!

Roger Roth

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 9:24 p.m.

I'm no rocket scientist. I acknowledge the spin-off developments of the space program. But, if I understand it correctly, it has been determined that the nearest planet to Earth that might support life is several light years away. Until we can up our travel speed significantly, it would take several generations of fliers to make the trip. What then is the point? Even if we did figured out where we came from, why we're here and where we're going, I bet my next paycheck that it won't change a thing. There will still be plenty of sociopaths and religious extremists to kill you or steal what you have, white-collar thieves to send the world economy into disaster and politicians who reward them for it and bigots who hate for no good reason, just to mention a few. Furthermore, for all we know, if we did make it to our Eden out in the cosmos, we'd probably find the same misfits there. On the other hand, now that I think about it, let's find that place, establish regularly scheduled, one-way trips to it and send all those mentioned above there so that the rest of us can live in peace and prosperity here on Earth.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 8:56 p.m.

Perhaps Mr. Aldrin would like to take a tour of the State of Michigan to see how people are struggling to meet the most fundamental needs to get from day to day. I'll fund your next moonwalk after everyone has food in their stomachs, a roof over their heads and the education to pursue their goals.

David Briegel

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 8:45 p.m.

Maybe the victors of the cold war and our banker, the Chinese will go for us and send us a report. We wouldn't want the top 2% to pay for anything except Perpetual War Profiteering!

Top Cat

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

God bless Buzz but he is wrong. There is no benefit to sending people back to the moon. Technology has advanced such that unmanned craft can accomplish much of what people could and at 10% of the cost. The goal should be to send multiple unmanned craft to land on Mars. They should be similar in design to the Apollo lunar modules. Have them drill and retrieve soil samples and then bring them back to Earth. End all non-humanitarian foreign aid and it could be more than paid more. Perhaps we could then answer one of the most interesting questions, is there now or was there ever life on Mars?


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

I agree with Aldrin that we need a "Kennedy" type goal but the only way we could pay for it would be to end the Bush tax cuts and actually tax the rich. They need to be paying their fair share and they are not. They don't create jobs - the horde the money for themselves.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

ditto what Brent said, nice advance notice of an interesting visitor coming to town. fail.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

How did I not know Buzz Aldrin was speaking in town today?, I need you to tell me these things!


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

It was not Buzz worthy.

Bob Needham

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

The event was a private conference not open to the public.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

Personally, I'd be for raising taxes to pay for more space exploration, but we definitely don't need to. NASA gets such a minuscule slice of the budget, we wouldn't even notice doubling or tripling it (or a lot more!). As an example: We spend more money per year on AIR CONDITIONING in Iraq and Afganistan than we do on NASA (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. It's really quite shameful.


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 6:27 p.m.

I love the spirit and the desire, and I hate to be a Buzz-kill, but we're broke. The only way we're headed to Mars anytime soon is to hitchhike.

David Briegel

Thu, Jun 30, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

The simple truth is that the effective tax rate at the top is lower than that of a middle class secretary. Just don't trouble with anything other than your TeaPublican talking points. Eisenhower would be laughing histerically! But then, he was a sane Republican.


Thu, Jun 30, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

We are broke but many people hide in the foolish, nonsensical ramblings that come out of Debbie Pelosi's mouth. Her (and Obama's) plan is to make "the rich", top 10%, who now pay 71% of federal taxes and TAX THEM MORE? How much more of their money do they want? …and they think the rest of their money is buried in the back yard where the IRS can send a truck and pick it up? …or maybe it's INVESTED IN BUSIENSSES and while earning more money, keeping YOU EMPLOYED and 401 K and other ordinary investors solvent. The top 1% pays 40% of all federal taxes!! Those are simple truths that democrats lie about every day. ….and others are too lazy or incompetent to face.

David Briegel

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 10:11 p.m.

We're not broke. We just refuse to tax the wealthy who have seen the largest increase in their wealth in the last century. All they need is MORE! Eisenhower would laugh histerically at these TeaPublicans!


Wed, Jun 29, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

Provided you have Kennedy era tax rates. You have to pay for what you get. No funds? You get nothing!