Buzz Aldrin Talks Scientific Pioneers, Science Fiction, and What He'd Do with the Infinity Gauntlet

To say that Buzz Aldrin is legendary wouldn't be an overstatement. Not only was he the second man to walk on the moon, but he's also a passionate advocate for space exploration and education, a science fiction fan and he was also made an honorary member of the Guardians of the Galaxy at San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago, wearing the Infinity Gauntlet a few years before Thanos would wield it in Avengers: Infinity War.

And, just like the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, all of those things are a little bit connected in the grand scheme of things. Aldrin recently spoke with in support of a small documentary, The Man Who Unlocked the Universe, about Ulugh Beg, a 15th century Timurid mathematician, ruler, and astronomer who may not be a household name but has had a great impact aviation, space travel, and even science fiction, a path that Aldrin can trace through his own life and experiences.

"I get picked for a lot of interesting things, that this is one of the really most enlightening that has occurred recently," Aldrin said. "And I'm so real happy to be a part of it because it allows me to connect the pioneers of aviation, a number of which my father knew and through that I got to be familiar with the names of the father of American rocketry. Robert Goddard was my father's physics professor, and the Wright brothers were people that were a little bit earlier, but dad knew who they were; Billy Mitchell, who did a few things, are early folks."

Those pioneers, like all scientists, can trace their achievements back to the discoveries and knowledge of those who came before them and when it comes to aviation and rocketry, that leads to Beg. In 1428 he built a large observatory and worked to compile the Zij-i-Sultani in 1437, a volume that is considered one of the greatest star catalogues in history, that, as the documentary explains, corrected errors in the work of previous astronomers and helped lay the groundwork for greater study of the universe. For Aldrin, being close to those following Beg's pioneering path centuries later helped lead him to an appreciation for science fiction -- and certainly influenced other minds as well.

"So being close to pioneering individuals and science fiction. When I was in the eighth grade I wrote a paper about science fiction, and I really enjoyed Isaac Asimov, and he seemed awesome," Aldrin said. "It really wasn't that impressive to my English professor and I really felt bad about that. He felt that that was too commonplace, but [Arthur C.] Clarke has proven that it's that imagination and that outlook, and exploring, and letting your mind really move based on the observation with great accuracy that allow you to be a pioneer."

Aldrin also said that it's the pioneering spirit and exploration of the things we imagine that may not always translate accurately to science fiction -- including super hero movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War -- but that those types of films and stories still educates and inspires further exploration and knowledge, especially if it's entertaining.

"A lot of times telling these stories somehow has that appeal of a bit of sensation," Aldrin explained. "Whether it's some conflict or overcoming some great obstacles. That's not always the way progress really happens. But progress slowly marches on. Science fiction comes, and shoot 'em ups, one after another. But that's the way you appeal to the public and appealing to the public educates the public. Tell them, sometimes you have to do whatever makes everybody happy."

And when it comes to making people happy, the honorary Guardian of the Galaxy had thoughts about what he would have done with the Infinity Gauntlet had he been in Thanos' shoes in Infinity War -- he would have let the universe simply be.

"I'd take it off and give it somebody else, probably!" Aldrin said. "I'm not sure that any human being wants to have that sort of power, but that power already exists. It has created the universe and allows it in its own way to unfold the way that it was created, and it's not subject to hit your feelings. It just is. And that's the marvel, and the beauty of, and the wisdom of having created something that living beings like us will always seek to comprehend, but I think never quite ever get a total understanding. It's a marvel of the all-seeing, all-aware, creating a vestry that gives us the magic of life."

The Man Who Unlocked the Universe is currently available on Amazon Prime.


Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now.

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