• Image about Neil Armstrong

Four decades after walking on the moon, Buzz Aldrin looks back at his life in a new memoir.

PEOPLE TAKE WALKS EVERY DAY. But on July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin took a whole different kind of stroll. He became the second man, behind Neil Armstrong, to walk on the surface of the moon. To get a breathtaking account of that historic mission and a summation of Aldrin’s life since then, we recommend taking a walk of your own to your local bookstore and picking up Aldrin’s new memoir, Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon (Harmony, $27). We checked in with the astronaut, who now runs the ShareSpace Foundation, to get his thoughts on the 40th anniversary of his moonwalk, his travels since then, and America’s future in space.

You first used the phrase “magnificent desolation” while you were on the moon. Why has that phrase stayed with you? Shortly after getting on the surface of the moon, Neil and I were walking to do some experiments. I knew that if I looked back and up I would see the earth. And I had this thought that the two of us were farther away than any two people had ever been … in terms of what we had to do to get back home. At the same time, the irony was that more people were paying attention to us at that moment than had ever happened in history. It’s magnificent [that we could go to the moon], but what a desolate place. There is no place on earth that is as desolate as the moon.