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July 10, 2008

Buzz Aldrin's freaky space travel story

Aldrin_buzz Apropos of nothing, but worth a read, is Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin's tale of one of the most unusual things he saw during his 1969 mission to the moon. Aldrin was on a TCA panel for National Geographic Channel’s Expedition Week.

Here’s a lightly edited version of Aldrin’s story:

I guess the discovery that really baffled me started the first night en route to the moon beyond the Van Allen Belts. We closed the windows and turned out the lights and Mike Collins had the headset on to listen to Houston and Neil [Armstrong] and I were under the couch.

All of a sudden I saw a flash, and then another flash. And before I could move my eye to see what it was, it was gone. And then maybe a streak. And I kept seeing these, until I decided I wanted to go to sleep.

So when we had one day left coming back and I said to the other two guys, “You guys see anything funny last night, like some flashes of light, or something? Mike, did you see anything?”

“No, I didn’t see anything.”


“Oh, yeah. Yeah, I saw about a hundred of them.”

Well, it was obviously inside the spacecraft [because the windows were closed]. So we came back and reported that afterward. And to get to the bottom of if, the next flight was briefed. And they went up there. And they could see the flashes with their eyes shut.

Which meant that high Z particles were penetrating the spacecraft, your helmet, everything else -- and impacting the retina of your eye. And it’s an example of the kind of particles that are out there en route to human travel to Mars and so forth that we need to keep track of. And when they hit your brain, you just lost a cell of two of memory. So I guess that was one of the most unusual things we saw.


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