I am a member of a teacher group at a local museum called Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum. I joined this group totally by accident; I was looking for more credit hours so that I could renew my teacher's license, and the museum offered a teacher course where I would get a kit of Science activities to do with my students, they'd spend the day teaching me how to use it, and I'd get credit hours. I Googled it, and it changed my life.
After I did the class in the winter of 2012, I got invited to participate further in a "Teacher Envoy" group sponsored by the museum. If I agreed to do it, I would promote museum activities at my school, and then the students and I would get to do cool stuff. My kids got to visit the museum for $1 each as a school group, and that summer I got to fly in a 2-seater, open-cockpit biplane! Then my kids got certificates to go to the museum with their families for free for one visit, and a couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail inviting me to "An Evening with Buzz Aldrin," a one night only event held at the museum. I would get in for FREE!
As soon as I saw the "free" part, I checked the date and knew that I had to go. I invited a fellow teacher from my school to join me, and we signed up. The night was a rescheduling of a ceremony that was supposed to have taken place at a charity gala in November, when Aldrin fell ill and couldn't attend. What ended up not being good for the Gala ended up being great for me!
The night was also to promote a book that was just published last year and written by Aldrin: Mission to Mars, which talks about Aldrin's proposed plan for the future of the space program. He would be signing books after the talk - and you had to buy the book for him to sign it. Well, so much for the "free" part. But I wanted to have something signed by a real astronaut, so I bought it.
The evening started with everyone gathered in the hangar of the museum on cute little wedding chairs (they do weddings at the museum, so there's always a use for cute white wedding chairs), and they were filming it so that the action on stage was shown on a big screen above. That was pretty nice, even though there weren't thousands of people there. My friend and I sat on the right side, and we had a relatively clear view of the stage. Buzz, his son Andy, and the ghost writer Leonard David actually came out and were talking in front of the stage for ten minutes or so, which meant there wasn't a grand entrance or anything. We had been told as we signed in that there wasn't picture taking allowed, but it wasn't announced to the crowd, nor were people who got out their cameras and phones told to cease and desist. My phone's camera isn't that great, and it had a really low battery at the time, so I didn't take any during the interview.
My opinion of Aldrin is that he is an 84-year-old man. He acts just like an 84-year-old man acts. When David - who hosted the interview - asked Aldrin questions, there was a 10% chance that Aldrin would give the answer straight away. For the most part, he would answer the question vaguely, but go off on tangents about various things. The same went for the Q&A session afterwards. People would ask questions like "What would you tell children who are looking to get into science at school?" or "What would you tell children if they feel their dreams are unattainable?" and Aldrin would kind of answer it, but not really.
I had two questions in my back pocket. One was a serious question that came to mind as the presentation went along. It was the one I ended up asking: "How much do you think private investors will be involved in the space program from here on out?" I wish when I'd asked it that I'd been that concise, but I have an issue using an economy of words at times. Still, it was understood. Aldrin didn't really answer my question very well, but his son mentioned that he's part of a private company that will be sending parts up into space in the very near future, so private investing will be huge.
My lighter question would have been "How did it feel to have Bryan Cranston play you on that TV miniseries that aired 15 years ago?" I would have enjoyed hearing his response, but most people wouldn't have understood that I was talking about From the Earth to the Moon that was on HBO. (Haven't heard about it? Go watch it. Now.)
After the Q&A the people in the seats queued up in a line for the book signing. My friend and I thought we were quick on our feet, but we were still in the back half of the line by the time we found our spot. For a pretty long time we just stood in one spot - so much so that we thought it was going to take a long time to get through. One of the workers came down the line and assured us that Aldrin was going to sign every book if we stuck around, so we did. Luckily once the first few people (who had five or six books each and were connected to the museum in some way) went through, the rest of the people were shuffled through pretty quickly, and it was clear Aldrin was going to sign the book and that was pretty much it.
When my friend and I made it to the front, Aldrin signed our books, and I got to say "Thank you," and he gave me a look of recognition, but not much else. Again, remember: this guy is 84 years old and is signing a few hundred books. I didn't have a big deal with it. The only other time I'd been willing to sit in line to have something signed was back when Desmond Howard did a signing in Ann Arbor, (That was AWESOME.) so I didn't have much to go on with this. I was pleased to get to do it, and now I have something signed by one of the 12 men who stepped foot on the moon.
As many people have pointed out to me, this Teacher Envoy program that I'm doing is sure giving me a lot of perks! I'm happy I accidentally got involved with this very nice museum and program.