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Buzz Adlrin Remebers Apollo 11 Flight

Aired July 20, 2009 - 16:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

ANNOUNCER: It happened 40 years ago today, to the hour. A new frontier reached, an impossible challenge met, all because a president wanted to shoot for the moon.

JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: On July 20th, 1969, Americans planted their feet and their flag on untouched ground. It launched a new era of space exploration and scientific discovery. And our world changed forever.


NEIL ARMSTRONG, APOLLO 11 ASTRONAUT: That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer, and this is a special edition of "The Situation Room" on this, the 40th anniversary of the first time man landed on the moon.

Whether you were alive or not, this hour, you'll feel the excitement, the anticipation, and the imagination felt around the world in the minutes before and after the Apollo mission changed history.

You'll get a sense of the mood and mission control in Houston, guiding the spacecraft. You'll also relive the moment when Apollo's lunar module, called the Eagle, actually touched down on the moon's surface.

And you'll see how millions of people glued themselves to television sets to bear witness to history.

We're bringing much of this to you with the help of a unique Web site. It's called In real time it recreates each minute leading up to the moon landing. You'll see actual clips and hear actual audio of what was happening in the critical minutes just before, and in just minutes we'll relive the moment that changed everything.

In fact, listen to what was going on exactly 40 years ago this second.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remote control. Activating.


BLITZER: One man whose life was forever changed is Buzz Aldrin. He joined Neil Armstrong in becoming the first two humans to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin is joining us now, as is David Bohrman, our senior vice president, the Washington bureau chief of CNN. He actually interviewed Buzz Aldrin 30 years ago today, as well.

First of all, Mr. Aldrin, thanks very much for coming in. We're only minutes away from that 40th anniversary not only to the minute but to the second. That what's going through your mind right now?

BUZZ ALDRIN, APOLLO 11 ASTRONAUT: Well, I appreciate you getting right to the second of 40 years later, but I've been reliving this for 40 years, and more intently, this particular 40th anniversary, because I think it provides a just marvelous opportunity for not only reliving this for the people who were not there, those who were there can re- share again, and we can entirely rejuvenate people and consider what a momentous decision that was, and how satisfied, how joyous the world was, especially our country, in successfully carrying that out. We can do that again.

BLITZER: And I want to take about that. I want to look ahead.

But in these minutes, precisely before you and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, tell us what you were thinking, what you were feeling exactly at this minute 40 years ago just before you touched down with the eagle on the surface of the moon.

ALDRIN: Well, the power descent was a critical departure from a nice, safe orbit going around the moon. Once you start slowing down, if everything quits, you're going to crash, OK?

So, you were in the process of slowly guiding yourself for an 11- minute time period, according to my Omega watch, we haven't quite got there yet, but in order to make this precise time, we're going to be looking out the window, face down, with the landing gear forward and the engine forward. We're slowing down as we're going over the lunar surface.

And Neil is looking at marks on his map. He's sort of the out of the window guy, and I'm the inside the window guy. I'm the person who's looking over the systems, the primary guidance systems, the abort guidance system, and giving him the information. Today, we might have a heads-up display, or all this information displayed on the windscreen. But all he had was one grid line for his particular height under the thrust level so that he could look out, when I gave him an angle from the computer, and it would indicate where the computer was taking us.

BLITZER: I want David to join us in this conversation. But this was -- nobody had ever done this before. Were you're thinking about your own safety. Did you say to yourself, you know what, this could be it, I may not be leaving the moon. I may just be arriving on the moon?

ALDRIN: I'm an optimistic guy, Wolf. I don't think about the downside.

What we are is alert as possible if something goes wrong to then pick up and start concentrating on the downside. But we don't want us to cause the downside by being not sufficiently attentive to the positive way.

So, we're strictly geared toward looking, performing. We've done the simulation many, many times in the computer in Houston, and, then when it was upgraded, the computer down at the Cape, for the final computer Ropes that we called them then, which was the version of the computer that was going to fly in the actual spacecraft.

BLITZER: All right. I want you to listen to this, David, especially you, both of you. Listen to this. This is right to the minute 40 years ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 40 seconds away from the Apollo 11 liftoff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: F-band pitch. Plus 1-8. Copy?


BLITZER: We're at exactly, David, ten minutes now, almost exactly to when the lunar module touched down on the surface of the moon.

DAVID BOHRMAN, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CNN: It's entering the period that Buzz was just talking about, that sort of sort of last 10 or 11 minutes. And what they were trying to do was incredibly comp complicated, was really -- was a kind of descent that had never been tested before, either.

You know, they had been flying simulators of something that was going to approach the LEM. Neil Armstrong had a terrible accident and had to parachute out from one of the LEM simulators on earth.

BLITZER: One of the rehearsals.

BOHRMAN: One of the rehearsals. And I think what is going to happen now in the next ten minutes is that the computers are pretty much maxed out, the technology is pretty much maxed out, and the computer alarms on board Eagle begin to sound.

And a lot of decisions had to be made in real time both by Buzz and Neil onboard the space craft and by all the folks in Houston as they were all in real time with pretty primitive computer technology as we look at it today, were trying to analyze what the alarms were, if it was serious, if they had to abort, or if they were going to be able to make it down.

BLITZER: In football terms, you were calling audibles at the line of scrimmage even with, what, eight or nine minutes to go.

ALDRIN: Well, no. I think mission control and Houston had the abort or no abort. They had the interpretation of any difficulty. And when the program alarms came on, we weren't about to just hit the proceed button, because that says I accept that, I'm going to go ahead anyway.

You may need to take some other action. But we didn't know what that was. It was in thick guidance and control dictionary, we called it. So, that's still stowed down there. And as we're coming down to land, we weren't about to pull it out, and leaf through turn the pages.

We asked mission control, give us an OK on that alarm, while the computer's continuing to fly us smoothly. nothing wrong other than orange light, the program alarm.

BOHRMAN: And as they begin to get closer and closer to the surface, I think -- I mean, Armstrong began to realize, well, they were sort of heading for an area that didn't look too hospitable, and they needed to do some quick thinking to go beyond it.

And in reality, they used up almost all the fuel on board the LEM, right? And 10, 12 seconds of fuel left?

ALDRIN: Well, the computer got us down to 3,000 feet above the surface. And I think that was the last alarm -- it was a slightly different type, but we had to go on that one.

And we were approaching a landing at that point, and the computer was going to continue to go all the way. Well, the commanders of all the missions decided that they didn't want the computer to actually do the touchdown. So, a comfortable way to take over was to take over manually at 500 feet.

BLITZER: Hold that thought for a second, because we're just getting started. We're only about, what, 6:30 or so from the actual moment 40 years ago this hour when the history of the world changed.

It certainly was an exciting moment, and we're reliving the moon landing minute by minute right up to those famous steps and famous words. There's also the famous image of America's stars and stripes flying in space.

We'll continue our chat with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin and David Bohrman about those memorable moments. And how do you preserve delicate pieces of history? The space suits were specially made for the moon, not for storage in a museum. And the suits right now, guess what, they're breaking down.


Program alarm.

We got you. Going that alarm.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 129 feet per second.



BLITZER: It was nothing short of stunning, the mission to put the first humans on the moon, on this, the 40th anniversary of the event that changed history.

We're counting down minute by minute those famous steps, words, and images. We're reliving those final nervous moments of Apollo's lunar module, the eagle, on its breathtaking journey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 400 feet at nine. Forward, 350 feet down at four. 3.5, forward. 1.5, 70, 50 down to 2.5, 19 forward. Altitude, velocity lights. 3.5 down. 20 feet, 15 forward. Forward. 200 feet, 4.5 down, 5.5 down. Forward, 120 feet, 100 feet, 3.5 down, nine forward. 5 percent. 75 feet.

Looking good, down a half. Six forward, 60 seconds. Lights on. Down 2.5, forward. Forward, 30 feet down, 2.5. Picking up some dust. 15 feet, 2.5 down. Four forward. Four forward. Drifting to the right a little. Down a half, 30 seconds.

Contact lights. OK. Engine stop. Control, both auto, command override off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We copy you down, Eagle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Houston, base here. The Eagle has landed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot.


BLITZER: Wow. What a moment, what a second that was.

Let's bring back Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 astronaut who joined Neil Armstrong in walking on the moon exactly, exactly 40 years ago right now.

David Bohrman is also joining us, our senior vice president, Washington bureau chief, whose passion for many, many decades has been this story that you have had that he knows a great deal about it.

All right, this was a moment, you didn't know what to expect, really, when you got out of that module.

ALDRIN: Right. It took us 60 seconds --

BLITZER: I know. It took a while to get out.

ALDRIN: Well, yes, there was some Nobel Prize winner in chemistry probably looking for a little more notoriety who said, hey, NASA, you're making a big mistake. They're going to sink in 50 feet --

BLITZER: That's what I mean. You didn't know what to expect.

ALDRIN: Well, we didn't believe him. Otherwise, we'd have done something different. If we believed him, we're not going to do that. So, most of the people said no --

BLITZER: At that moment of landing, did it go exactly the way you thought it would?

ALDRIN: The touchdown?


ALDRIN: The touchdown, actual touchdown? Yes. Yes. It was smooth. It really was. It wasn't bumpy.

And when we got out and looked back, it hadn't penetrated the surface more than a quarter, half an inch. So, the landing gear passed. It cushioned the touchdown.

BOHRMAN: While we were watching, Buzz was explaining what he was doing. They're playing the clip again. Tell us what you were -- what were you reading out? What were you doing?

ALDRIN: Well, there were three displays. We only had three pieces of information on the primary guidance computer -- altitude, altitude rate, and velocity over the ground. So, we wanted to know the altitude and our rate of descent.

And when I say "four forward," that means we're moving forward, because it's got a plus sign, and we're moving to the right, I can see that.

BLITZER: And so it was exactly the way you had rehearsed it, planned, and trained for it? ALDRIN: No, but it was reality. I mean, it was really happening. And in simulations we never got quite that low on fuel.

BLITZER: How low on fuel exactly were you at that point?

ALDRIN: Well, the guy with the dip stick out there that put it in, he came up with about 15 seconds.

BLITZER: Really?

ALDRIN: You hear a lot of different stories, but there's no way to really measure it.

BLITZER: Explain to our viewers that fuel issue.

ALDRIN: We anticipated maybe a minute and a half or two minutes of fuel left. So, it stretched on close to the --

BOHRMAN: They needed it to get beyond that -- that crater. And I think in a while we're going to have Tom Foreman show us that flight approach and the crater that they had to go beyond. And they need enough fuel just to get beyond some really unhospitable boulders that were there.

You mentioned -- you mentioned the first steps, and I think you want to get to that.

BLITZER: Yes. We have a clip of that.

BOHRMAN: A clip. And what's going to happen in this clip are three things. As Armstrong gets outside, first of all, before he steps on the moon, he describes what he sees, and then he gets onto the surface.

Then many the same clip, Buzz goes onto the surface with his wonderful quote, "magnificent desolation." And then also attached to this clip is the reading of the plaque that to this day sits at Tranquility Base. Why don't we take a look at that?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TV circuit breaker is in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. TV circuit breaker is in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. And we're getting a picture on the TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Neil. We can see you coming down the ladder now.

ARMSTRONG: I'm at the foot of the ladder. The LEM foot beds are only depressed in the surface about one or two inches, although the surface appears to be very, very fine grained as you get close to it. It's almost like a powder.

I'm going to step off the LEM now. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, ready for me to come out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just stand by a second. I'll move this over the handrail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Making sure not to lock it on my way out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Definitely a good thought. There you go. Beautiful. Beautiful.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't that something?

ALDRIN: Magnificent desolation.

Neil is now unveiling the plaque.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We haven't read the plaque. We'll read the plaque that's on the landing gear of this LEM.

There are two hemispheres, one showing each of the two hemispheres of earth. Underneath it says, "Here men from the planet earth first set foot upon the moon, July, 1969 A.D. They came in peace for all mankind."

It has the crew members' signatures and the signature of the president of the United States.


BLITZER: All those memorable words, they weren't just spontaneous. You had thought about them for a while.

ALDRIN: Well, he was reading them from the plaque.

BLITZER: But you brought that plaque with you.

ALDRIN: Yes, yes. We knew what the plaque read. But it was on the landing gear leg and it had a cover on it, so we had to take the cover off.

BLITZER: But the phrase that you said when you saw the moon landing, "magnificent desolation."

ALDRIN: Yes. No, that was not rehearsed or thought of.

But the word "beauty" that I heard or said before somehow in no way described what was really there.

It was magnificent because of what we had just done. Human beings had just come down from the trees and done all those progressive thing, we built rockets, we put spacecraft on them, we put people in them, and we sent them to the moon, and that object up in the sky called the moon, finally two people are now walking around on it.

What a magnificent tribute to the achievements of humanity to be able to do that. Living creatures finally did something like that -- magnificent, the progress we've made.

And yet looking out, the most lifeless thing I had ever seen, the most lifeless scenery. It looked like and it was a scene that hadn't changed in hundreds of thousands of years. A little bit more dust accrued by micro-impacts and all of it, but all the craters were rounded. The sky was black, the horizon curved away. No life. No signs of life. Just shades of gray.

BLITZER: A real moment.

David, hold your thought because I want to continue this.


BLITZER: We're going to go over to the magic wall and recreate some magic moments, as well.

"To the Moon and Beyond" as we celebrate the first landing on the moon. Where should the next place be to land and explore?

And the music mogul, Quincy Jones, he has a unique and very special connection to this mission that put the first man on the moon. Quincy Jones is here in "The Situation Room" to explain.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's get to the details of what's around here, but it looks like a collection of just about every variety of shape, angularity, granularity, about every variety of rock you could find.


BLITZER: That's exactly 40 years ago this minute. It was about 11 minutes after the space module, the lunar module, touched down on the surface of the moon. Buzz Aldrin was inside with Neil Armstrong, and they were getting ready eventually to walk on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin, this is Tom Foreman. He's got our magic map. And Tom, Google Earth now has something new, Google Moon. Should we call it that?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Google Moon, I have to say, this is one of the coolest things I've seen in a long time, and I hope you enjoyed it. This is as we move through part of the recreation of the flight to the moon that you can do in Google Moon, it's a fascinating program. Buzz, I want you to start it here and talk about what was happening at this moment as you got to right here. This is the crater David Bohrman was talking about a while ago that you knew you couldn't land in. What was happening as you approached?

ALDRIN: Well, as we approached, we had four operations. You could either pitch up to slow up, land short, left, right or --

FOREMAN: This is are the limits in the display you had, correct?


FOREMAN: And we chose the more prudent one, which is to just pitch forward a little bit and fly over the other side. But it takes more time, consumes more fuel.

But it is the more prudent thing. It's not as demanding in maneuvers.

FOREMAN: What about all these little jogs we see on the surface? What does that mean? What was happening?

ALDRIN: Well, we had an autopilot that was rate command attitude hold. So, if you commanded a rate, you were going to change your attitude. When you release the rate, you were going to hold that attitude.

And, of course, if it was off a little bit, you were going to begin to accelerate in a certain direction.

FOREMAN: And this shows the dust kicking up.

And then finally you were on the surface at this moment.

ALDRIN: Well, we were making -- Neil was making last-minute corrections as we approached down here to -- to null out the -- the rates to be as near zero as possible at the time we actually touched down.

FOREMAN: Well, let's move past this for a moment. I'm going to stop this display and go into a different part of Google Moon, where we can see a little bit more of what happened on the ground here as you moved in.

Now, once you were planted here, and you finally came outside, you managed to get...

BLITZER: And they spent several hours before they came outside.

FOREMAN: Exactly. And what did you do during that time, the time you were waiting to come out?

ALDRIN: We -- we went through the checklist of the long preparation of -- of getting the backpack off, putting these things on, each one of us, equipping the -- the spacecraft, making all the checks. It takes a very long time to -- to go through the checklist. And -- and it was not timelined because we altered the flight plan from resting first to going out first.

FOREMAN: Now, tell me about this. This is something that I don't think I have ever seen anywhere on TV before.

You're the person who was there taking these photographs, now standing here in the midst of it. This is a 360-degree view. Tell us about this moment when you stood and saw this, just as you're looking at it now.

ALDRIN: Well, you can see the horizon. You could.

FOREMAN: Let me bring it -- I will bring it back here just a moment.


You can see the horizon is very clear from the level surface. And you can also see the -- the boulders on the edge of the horizon. And they're just shades of gray, but boulder out here. It's just extremely clear. But it doesn't keep going, the way it would in Kansas.

FOREMAN: Mm-hmm.

ALDRIN: All right?

FOREMAN: So, you're just...


ALDRIN: This is not a Flat Earth Society extension.


ALDRIN: You would never have a Flat Moon Society, because you can see the curvature going away from you in -- in all directions. So, you know that you're on a sphere.

FOREMAN: Was this starkness that we see here of the light -- it shows up in photographs this way. Does it look that stark there?

ALDRIN: Well, it's all different shades of gray.

And -- and, when the sun is directly behind you, then -- then you see things illuminated much brighter, like that rock.


ALDRIN: It bounces the light back. It's called -- see, now, the camera is catching the sun behind it, because it creates the shadow right here. So, the -- the person's eye or camera is right here. And -- and that shows the backscatter. FOREMAN: And what was this -- this item that we have on the horizon out here a little bit, the thing that looks a little bit -- I think this is one of the TV cameras that you had out here. Let's take another look at it, if we can.

ALDRIN: Yes. We put out a panorama camera.

FOREMAN: Mm-hmm.


FOREMAN: ... back over...


ALDRIN: First, we took the camera out to the place. And then we -- we took pictures all the way around.

FOREMAN: This one right here.

ALDRIN: ... all the way around, and completed the 360, then put the camera out here. Now, you notice this cable?


ALDRIN: That's not the way they tested it in one gravity on the test floor. This cable would lie flat, OK? In the lunar gravity, it doesn't lie flat. It's waiting for some daydreaming astronaut to come along, trip over this, pull over their camera, and mess it up. That's the kind of thing you want to avoid ever happening.

BLITZER: All right, guys, hold -- hold on for a moment, because I just want to remind our viewers it's now 4:34 p.m. Eastern, only minutes after touchdown on the moon exactly 40 years ago.

We're reminiscing. We're recreating what happened 40 years ago. And we are going to look ahead at the next 40 years as well.

And we're also taking a closer look at those original space suits that were worn by the Apollo astronauts. They were designed to be extremely tough and durable, but one thing they don't stand up to well is time. We are going to tell you about the race to preserve them right now.

And marking this, the 40th anniversary of the moon landing in space, we are going to show you what's going on more than 200 miles above Earth right now at the International Space Station.


BLITZER: Welcome back.

We're recreating what happened exactly this hour 40 years ago, when man, for the first time, landed on the moon. And one of the two men who actually touched down, Buzz Aldrin, is here. And you have written a brand-new book. And I have it right here. It's entitled "Magnificent Desolation," which is what you actually saw when you arrived on the moon.

You know, you were watching, David, the recreation, the -- the scenes, Google Moon, as we were showing them. And you have studied this for a long time. Thirty years ago, on the 10th anniversary of your landing on the moon, you know where you were?


BLITZER: David Bohrman, he was a young...


BLITZER: He was a young journalist, and he was sitting there interviewing you.

Pick up the story, David.

DAVID BOHRMAN, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, the -- I mean, the -- the astronauts who walked on the moon had an interesting post- experience after having walked on the moon. And Buzz had been through a lot.

And the stories he told me 10 years after his launch was just fascinating. I found the clip recently. Let's take a look at it and -- and -- and see what it tells us today.


BOHRMAN: Talking about the spirit of Apollo, you told us what you did right after the flight of Apollo 11, then five years later. How about 10 years later? How has that spirit changed? What did you do on the 10th anniversary of your launch on Apollo 11?

ALDRIN: Well, I visited a very important person in my life. He's the head of the Long Beach Alcohol Rehabilitation Center. And, in a sense, he's my monitor of my recovery right now from alcoholism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, down at the Navy hospital?

ALDRIN: Yes, a Navy place in Long Beach. I went through there three years ago. That was before Betty Ford appeared on the scene, and I went down and talked to her some and Herman Talmadge, and, rather recently, billy Carter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That Navy -- he's a captain, isn't he, that doctor?

ALDRIN: Captain...


ALDRIN: ... Joe Persh (ph).


ALDRIN: Anyway, he said, why don't you go visit someone who -- whose name I can't really mention, but he's almost a household word.

So, I hopped in my borrowed car, as a matter of fact, and wheeled on over there, and managed to get the red light flashing behind me. And I pulled over to the side, and thought, oh, geez. You know, here I am trying to do some good somewhere, and can't quite get around to it.

So, I thought, well, I will plead on the guy's sympathy. And I says, you really aren't going to give me a ticket 10 years the exact day that I was launched to go to the moon, are you? My name is I'm Buzz Aldrin.

Either he didn't know the name, thought I was kidding, or chose not to make that have any impact.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you got a ticket?



BOHRMAN: A speeding ticket 10 years after the launch to the moon. I mean, there's -- there's been so much that has happened over -- over the last 30 and 40 years.

And you have -- you have overcome a lot. And it's just -- it's, you know, a fascinating -- it's a fascinating read. And all this is talked about in the book. And it's just, you know, we're -- we can't tell you how exciting it is to -- to relive this memory.

ALDRIN: Well, my life was not too well together at that point.

BOHRMAN: That's right.

ALDRIN: You know, I have 30 years of sobriety now, going up on 31, see? So...

BOHRMAN: It was rough for...


BOHRMAN: It was rough for a lot of -- a lot of the men who...

ALDRIN: Well, I...

BOHRMAN: ... walked on the moon had -- I mean, their life -- it's hard to -- it's hard to imagine that the peak, the ultimate moment, happens when you're 35 or 38 years old.

ALDRIN: But -- but not everyone had their mother commit suicide a year before they went to the moon. BOHRMAN: Right.

ALDRIN: And her father committed suicide before I was born.

I inherited depression. I inherited the tendencies for alcoholism. And I had to deal with that. And it began to -- to come on. And I began to realize that. And it wasn't long before I realized I needed help for the depression.

And -- and that continued. I was made national chairman for mental health, toured around with people, speaking in different cities.

BOHRMAN: And I think that encouraged a lot of people to come out as well.

ALDRIN: That's not what I -- right, but I -- that's not what I set out to do in my life, to become a fighter pilot, and shoot down...


BLITZER: And you know what?

ALDRIN: ... in combat. And next thing I am is national chairman for mental health.

Well, pretty soon, the other -- the real -- maybe -- the real demon began to show up. And -- and, by the time that this story that I had written was made into a movie, Cliff Robertson came down to see me to play my part in an ABC movie of the week. And I was in my first treatment for alcoholism. And that took two, three years.

BLITZER: Quick question. The next 40 years, 40 years from now, give me a thought. What would you like space exploration to have achieved?

ALDRIN: Well, 40 years ago, I think I was kind of naive, and I think we all were, about what we might be doing. We -- we just had the crescendo of an accelerated program, and we could expect -- or should expect -- that it would overshoot a little bit. And we have now progressed beyond that point.

BLITZER: So, what do you want? What's the most important thing over the next few decades?

ALDRIN: The most important thing to me, I'm a military guy. I'm in service of my country. We want U.S. global space leadership.

And we can get to that objective best, as I see it now, with an experienced mind that's looked over these last 30, 20, 10 years in increasing awareness of what we have been doing, what we have...

BOHRMAN: Does that mean going to Mars?

ALDRIN: Progress we have been making...

BOHRMAN: Going to Mars, is that what -- is that really part of that?

ALDRIN: It is to do the things that give us leadership. And going back to the moon and getting that there 50 years after we were there before is not real leadership.

Using our experience, even not just in the last 40 years, but the last four years, we're preparing to gets ours -- if we change, and now use that experience to help other internationals go who want to go for the first time, not us for the second time, we could then...

BLITZER: All right.

ALDRIN: ... take our resources and establish a pathway of -- of progressive achievement that will be very exciting, much more exciting than than -- just going back to the moon.


ALDRIN: And that pathway is to permanence at Mars.

BLITZER: And you tell an incredible story. You go through all of that in your new book, "Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home From the Moon."

Buzz Aldrin, it's been a pleasure having you here in THE SITUATION ROOM, exactly -- exactly -- 40 years to the minute when you and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Thanks so much.

ALDRIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And good luck over the next 40 years.

ALDRIN: Nice being here. Thank you a lot.

BLITZER: David Bohrman, don't go away. We have got more to talk about.

There's a shuttle mission in orbit right now. In fact, you're looking at live pictures of U.S. astronauts in space orbiting the Earth right now. We are going to talk more about the future of the space program. That's coming up.

Plus, preserving some of the most recognizable -- recognizable artifacts from the Apollo mission, the original space suits. It's turning out to be a race against time.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: You have seen the iconic images of man's landing on the moon. There's an amazing documentary showing incredible access behind the scenes.

Let's bring in CNN's Don Riddell. He's in London.

They have some pretty incredible footage of the people and the machinery.

David, let's -- let's talk a little bit about it. David Bohrman is still here.

The -- the preparations, the -- the recreation, the lessons learned from all of this 40 years later, and you have been a student of this -- you spent a lot of time thinking about it.

BOHRMAN: Oh, yes. I -- you know, I think it inspired a generation of -- of students who want to be astronauts and want to study astronomy and physics.

BLITZER: Like you.

BOHRMAN: Like me. And I -- I...


BLITZER: When you were at Stanford...


BOHRMAN: ... started at Stanford as an astronomy physics major.


BLITZER: You wanted to be an astronaut.

BOHRMAN: I -- I -- actually, I did. I will admit it.

And one of my T.A.s was Sally Ride. She was a grad student leading an astronomy lab when I was into Stanford...


BLITZER: She was your teacher's assistant.


BLITZER: Stand by.

Don Riddell is in London. He's been looking at this amazing history as well.

Don, what are you seeing?

DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is an incredible film, Wolf.

And -- and it's amazing to think that, when NASA commissioned it back in the '60s, they said to the filmmaker, you can make it whatever you want, because we know that, by the time it's aired in about a year-and-a-half, everybody is going to be bored of it.

So, they were really saying, make this film for future posterity. NASA, would you believe, lost it before anybody really got a chance to see it. And Theo Kamecke, the director, kept it under his desk, because he knew that, one day, people would come calling.

And, really, he's made this film. It doesn't glorify the astronauts at all. He doesn't even interview the astronauts. He didn't want to portray them as hero. He's made a time capsule of how the world saw this event. And they saw it as a truly global event, an event for mankind, and not really one that was terribly American, it has to be said.

But he's terribly pleased with it. And it's a fantastic film -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Hundreds of millions of people were watching at this moment exactly 40 years ago.

Don, thank you.

NASA still has very ambitious plans for new space exploration, but building a new generation of space vehicles will come at the cost of the shuttle, which will fly its last mission next year. Is that a mistake?

We will ask one of the leading space experts in the United States Senate, Senator Bill Nelson. He is here.

Also, a show business connection to the moon landing, the music legend Quincy Jones. He tells us about it.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: All right. That's the space shuttle Endeavour. They're working hard at the International Space Station.

But let's talk about the future of space exploration with Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida. He himself went into space aboard the shuttle Columbia back in 1986.

Hard to believe it's been that long, Senator Nelson.

David Bohrman is still with us, our Washington bureau chief.

The future doesn't necessarily look all that good. At a time of enormous economic pain, some folks are saying, you know what, it's nice to have space exploration, but the billions, the tens of billions could better be spent here on Earth.

You don't agree.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: You can do both. And, often, the two overlap.

Just think of everything that's come out of the space program that has helped our daily lives. Think about all the medical equipment. Think about the microminiaturization that came as a direct result of us going, and highly reliable systems that were small in volume and light in weight. And that -- that spawned a revolution in microminiaturization that we all benefit from now.

That watch is a part of it. So, you -- it's a question, can you do both? And the answer is, do we want to fulfill our destiny as a people, which is our character? We are explorers. We don't want to give that up, Wolf. Otherwise, we become a second-rate nation.

BLITZER: David has a question, too.

BOHRMAN: Well, no, I -- I think that it's -- it's -- you know, I remember, during those space program years, and especially as Apollo looked like it was ending, there was much discussion of why are we going to the moon.

I mean, we were fighting a war. We were having problems as a nation. And -- and I think people were searching for -- for a -- a simple answer. What's the one-line answer why we're going to the moon?

My sense is that you actually hit it, that almost everything that surrounds us in our lives today, in some way or another, came out of the push for science and technology. Computers, tech -- the power that we have in our portable phones, the way people are watching us globally around the world right now, the things we take for granted in our lives, arguably, came all out of that program.

BLITZER: But does the nation has that priority right now? Do you feel the president, for example, the Congress, this is a priority?

NELSON: I think that is to be determined.

And I think there's only one person that can lead the space program, and that is the president.

BLITZER: Because he punted, basically. He said, let's create a commission to study it.

NELSON: Well, he started to punt, but he became very specific as candidate Obama.

BLITZER: As a candidate. But, since becoming president, he's punted.

NELSON: No. Look who he got as the NASA administrator, astronaut Charlie Bolden, the best of the best.

He turned it over to a panel, trying to give him some...


BLITZER: But you know Washington. Whenever you turn it over to a panel, what does that mean?

NELSON: Well, this is Norm Augustine. And I think he's going to come out and say that we have got to be bold. You have got to put the resources there. If you want to go to the moon by 2020, which is what the president has said, and if you want to go to Mars and beyond, if we want to find out what we are and where we are in this cosmos, then it's got to be led by president.

BLITZER: Good luck.

NELSON: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thanks for coming in on this historic -- on this historic hour.

NELSON: It is very historic.

I was in -- as we were landing, I was in London as an Army lieutenant. And, of course, I had to get up in the middle of the night. And, then, when they got out, it was really up in the middle of the night.

BLITZER: All of us who lived through that area will -- that era will remember exactly where we were.

Senator, thanks for coming in.

NELSON: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Quincy Jones tells us why the Apollo mission made him feel like an honorary astronaut -- that and more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: CNN's Tom Foreman recently checked out the original Apollo 11 space suits.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Booster ignition and liftoff of Endeavour.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Far from the modern launches and even memories of past glory, in a Smithsonian storage space on the edge of D.C., another race against time.

CATHLEEN LEWIS, MUSEUM CURATOR, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE: These suits were designed to be used under very harsh conditions for a very short period of time. And preserving them for 40 or 50 years has been our task here.

FOREMAN (on camera): Big challenge.

LEWIS: It's a big challenge.

And this is the suit that everyone wants to see.

FOREMAN (voice-over): More than 700 space suits and their components are kept here...

LEWIS: This is Neil Armstrong's suit.

FOREMAN: ... all under the watchful eyes of curator Cathleen Lewis. And what she is watching is a steady march of decay.

LEWIS: It's just their components are beginning to deteriorate, and -- which is not surprising, if you understand the chemistry of the suits themselves and how those materials fit together.

FOREMAN: The suits were made to be self-contained environments against the harsh temperatures and vacuum of space, complex garments involving up to two dozen layers of various fabrics, metallic linings, rubber seals, plastic connectors, steel nozzles.

LEWIS: This is the helmet that you see in the famous photographs.

FOREMAN: But, even in this constant 60-degree vault, all those parts are breaking down. Fabric is aging, tearing, metal rusting, rubber growing brittle, plastic decomposing.

LEWIS: These parts were originally white, and they're turning yellow. That indicates that the chlorine is coming out and the hydrochloric acid.

FOREMAN: Lewis and her team chemically stabilize some parts, cut away others when they start liquefying or staining, and, through it all, try to keep the history intact.

LEWIS: And you can see, he had a lot of fun playing in the rocks when he was on the surface of the moon.


LEWIS: He could...


FOREMAN (on camera): So, this -- this is all...

LEWIS: All of this...


FOREMAN: This is moon dust?

LEWIS: This is moon dust.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Pieces of history that are being lost and preserved one small step at a time.


FOREMAN: Pieces of history, Wolf, like the suit that they are going to try to keep with us as long as possible, so as many of us as possible can look and see that moon dust embedded in the knees of Neil Armstrong's suit and many others, just a remarkable room to be in, Wolf, and a remarkable collection at the Smithsonian Institute Air and Space storage facility.

Hopefully, some of it can go on display -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom, thank you -- a remarkable moment, indeed.

And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.