Which moments of the nine-day mission stand out most in your mind? It’s the moment that was unrecorded. It’s the moment I really think is underappreciated. But it was the words I said when the probe hit the ground and turned on the light in the cockpit. Those words were, “Contact light. Engine stop,” and all the other technical things that communicated to the mission controllers so they knew we were on the ground.

How did the mission change your life?
Return to Earth -- that was the biggest challenge for me. Not technically, not operationally. But as a human being coming back after having been on the surface of the moon, I now have to live up to that image, because I’m going to go around the world and meet queens and kings and speak to every kindergarten class in the country. I had had a little taste of this after my first flight in Gemini 12. I didn’t relish this idea.

What is your hope for the future of American space travel now that the space-shuttle program is scheduled to end in 2010? I think that needs to be changed. We invested so much in the space program, as much as the amazing amount of 3.5 percent of our national budget [in 1967]. Then, it went downhill, and it’s now approximately six-tenths of a percent. [I would like to see us] extend the shuttle flights to one a year and put something at the space station that would help with long-duration flight. [We could] go and visit asteroids, comets, and the moon of Mars several times. And then, we could visit the surface of Mars permanently. [By the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, we could] lead the world by landing the first Earth creatures to stay and populate Mars.

On the travel front, what keeps an astronaut excited when his past includes a moonwalk?
I have been to the North Pole on a Russian nuclear icebreaker. I have been to see the Titanic in a little French submarine. I am looking forward to driving along [on an education mission] to the South Pole this December.

Did You Know?

• Buzz Aldrin’s name served as inspiration for Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear character.

• A cartoon rendering of Aldrin (voiced by the man himself) made an appearance on The Simpsons in a fifth-season episode titled “Deep Space Homer.”

• The Moonman statues handed out at the MTV Video Music Awards are modeled after Aldrin.

• Aldrin cowrote the 1997 novel Encounter with Tiber with prolific science-fiction author John Barnes.