SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Tomorrow is the 45th anniversary of man leaving Earth to land on the moon.
NEIL ARMSTRONG: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
SIMON: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the surface of a world that used to be just a light in our sky.
BUZZ ALDRIN: Beautiful view.
ARMSTRONG: Isn't that something? Magnificent sight out here.
ALDRIN: Magnificent desolation.
SIMON: Magnificent desolation. That's the voice of Buzz Aldrin. He missed the earthly reactions to his landing that day. But for the 45th anniversary, he's invited people around the world to share their memories of the moon landing using the hashtag #apollo45 and a new YouTube channel and Twitter. Hundreds of tweets and videos have gone up, including one from Neil deGrasse Tyson. The famous astrophysicist was 10 years old.
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: So there we are and I say to myself OK, that's fine. We walked on the moon. I now expect this to be a routine occurrence - if not daily, certainly monthly - several times a year.
SIMON: It didn't become routine. NASA's Apollo program ended after just six landings. But for many, Apollo 11 was an event that demonstrated the power of the human spirit. We spoke with Buzz Aldrin about that day 45 years ago and the spirit that sent him into space.
ALDRIN: My father's an early aviator and my first flight was with him at age two. Now, despite the fact that I got sick on the flight, I still enjoyed it, I believe.
SIMON: He graduated from West Point, became a U.S. Air Force combat pilot and earned a doctorate from MIT. Edwin Aldrin was selected to be an astronaut by NASA in 1963. And on July 16, 1969, Buzz Aldrin, Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar pilot Michael Collins lifted off in Apollo 11. Within four days, they were in orbit around the moon. And while they'd practiced descending to the lunar surface thousands of times...
(SOUNDBITE OF ALARM)
ARMSTRONG: 1202 alarm.
ALDRIN: We got some disturbing program alarms that we didn't really understand.
SIMON: They called down to Houston.
ALDRIN: And they said your go on those alarms.
CHARLIE DUKE: OK, (unintelligible) go. (Unintelligible), go. Guide, go. Control, go.
ALDRIN: And then when we got down to about 100 feet, a fuel quantity light came on. And we heard Charlie Duke in mission control say...
DUKE: Sixty seconds.
ALDRIN: Sixty seconds while still being 100 feet above the surface - I was getting a little apprehensive. But of course, I didn't want to disturb my commander to the left because he was looking out and manually controlling things.
SIMON: They were 10 feet above the surface of the moon with just 30 seconds of fuel. You can hear concern in the voice of NASA's ground controllers. But Buzz Aldrin says, aboard the lunar lander...
ALDRIN: It was smooth and we could see the dust blowing up. And we touched down. And soon as that happens, I see a light on the instrument panel. And I say contact light - because Neil is looking out the window - and then engine stop. And Neil says Houston Tranquility Base, the Eagle has landed.
ARMSTRONG: Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.
DUKE: Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch a guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.
SIMON: Those words became plain unintended poetry for the space age. The crew of Apollo 11 returned to Earth as heroes but life at regular gravity could be tough for Buzz Aldrin.
ALDRIN: My first biography written in '73 was not "Journey To The Moon." It was "Return To Earth." Because for me that was the more difficult task - disappointment. Depression that was inherited began to take its toll. And that led to alcoholism.
SIMON: He's now been sober for 35 years and has dedicated much of his life to exploration. And while he's disappointed that man no longer voyages to the moon, he's glad Apollo 11 confirmed the boldness of human endeavor.
ALDRIN: Well, it certainly gave us hope that the big ocean of space could be traversed with degrees of confidence and not only the dreams of the moon, but asteroids further out or closer in and eventually reaching a point where we could conceive of landing humans on Mars.
SIMON: Buzz Aldrin, speaking from Earth 45 years after he and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon and made outer space a part of our world. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.