Review of ‘Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon’ by Buzz Aldrin with Ken Abraham

An insightful autobiography from one of the most famous astronauts ever, Magnificent Desolation begins with the Apollo 11 mission which landed the first men on the moon in 1969. This makes for a riveting first few chapters. The rest of the book, while interesting enough and obviously heartfelt, is an anticlimax, which mirrors Buzz Aldrin’s feelings on returning from the moon. I don’t mean anything negative by this, merely agreeing with Aldrin that there’s no way to top that highlight of his career.

Aldrin’s focus is on his personal problems after the mission – the stress of an unhappy marriage, the alcoholism and depression he struggled with, the media circus, always being known as ‘the second man on the moon’, the perception that NASA was taking advantage of him, the frustration at bureaucracy getting in the way of the American space programme. He notes that no one had ever investigated the effects of going into space on astronauts’ mental health and that in the 1970s, speaking openly about having depression (particularly as a man, and especially as a man popularly considered as a hero) could be disastrous for one’s public profile. To his credit, he spoke out about it. The tone of the book begins to lighten when he meets Lois, the love of his life. There is quite a lot about her but this reflects her vital importance to him as his cheerleader, organiser and introduction to society.

I’m not sure if this is due to the book being a collaboration, or maybe it’s because I’m used to a more confessional style of autobiography, but I get the sense that certain elements are held back. It’s very much about his career, his family and his mental health. There’s little about his time before attending military academy (although perhaps that was covered in his previous older autobiography). What I find intriguing is that he met so many famous people, including world leaders, yet he has nothing to say about the experience other than describing the formalities. Most likely this is for diplomatic reasons and to appeal to a broad audience.

First published in 2009. At the time of writing this review, Buzz Aldrin is 90 years old.

9 thoughts on “Review of ‘Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon’ by Buzz Aldrin with Ken Abraham”

  1. This is the first time I hear about his depression, I had no idea. Maybe he still can’t look back on many of these events in a positive light? Like you said, there must be a reason he didn’t share his experience when meeting important people, but I don’t know what is, political reasons or because he has mixed feelings about that period in general and didn’t have happy feelings then to look back to. Great review lovely!

    1. Thanks for your comment! 🙂
      I didn’t really consider before that his experiences would cause these problems but it seems to make sense now I think about it. He is an icon and hero to a lot of people and that’s a lot to live up to.

  2. Hard writing an autobiography especially when you have to face your own demons. I find it so difficult to write my thoughts down when I’m going thru some hard times, even when I’m looking back…As for him, maybe it’s political reason that he held back the parts that you mentioned? That if he tells part of it, he has to tell them all? Just my guess..

    1. I have a lot of respect for anyone who writes an autobiography, it takes a lot of courage to write honestly about oneself, especially the negative parts! I agree it’s probably for political reasons not everything is discussed, I mean he has met several US presidents but it’s best not to talk about that. It was also written in conjunction with another guy who may possibly have helped with decisions like this.

  3. Great review! I can’t imagine it’s easy to deal with always being ‘the second man on the moon’. It can’t have been easy as everyone always goes on about the first man on the moon and the other astronauts are like back up people. It’s a shame but it does sound like the autobiography holds back a lot but some people I guess find it hard to talk deeply about how they feel, maybe he’s one person who struggled to open up and still does.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 I know, he’s known as the second man on the moon… and actually he was supposed to be the first. And the other guy, Michael Collins, never set foot on the moon but was vital to their mission.

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