Book Review: Aldrin’s “No Dream Is Too High”
September 7, 2017
There are certain notable figures in history whose names are iconic and known throughout most of the world — Martin Luther King, Napoleon Bonaparte and Princess Diana, are just some of the many from the most recent centuries — as is that of the first man to set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong. And though he arrived on the surface of the moon in second place, Buzz Aldrin has secured his own place in the history books just as firmly as his co-astronaut, partly because his force of personality has kept him in the public eye and also because his enthusiasm for life has kept him culturally relevant even as he approaches his 90s.
"No Dream Is Too High" is Buzz Aldrin's most recent book, and it is much more than a delightful and informative romp down the retired astronaut's memory lane of high-flying adventures. Much of the book's content is reflected in its subtitle, "Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon." Aldrin recounts how his career as an astronaut and a pilot has taught him many things that can be relevant to everyday life.
And though his everyday life has seen much more action that most people can even dream of, Aldrin's tips for living life fully can be applied to any pursuit. Plenty of what he has to say is common sense, and his suggestions are basics that are known to be key parts of keeping an active mind and body. But, it is the anecdotal evidence of those views on living that are unique and thrilling to read.
Of course, a book detailing Aldrin's life would not be complete without a thorough recounting of the Apollo 11 mission from his perspective, and he does not disappoint, going into fascinating detail of many aspects of that remarkable moment that captivated the world in the summer of 1969. Nonetheless, his recollections of the lunar landing consume only the first chapter of the book, with the rest intended as an inspiration to readers to follow seemingly unreachable dreams.
When the Eagle lunar module landed on what Armstrong named "Tranquility Base," Aldrin recalls being awed by the "magnificent desolation" of the moon's landscape, and the enormity of what they had accomplished was not lost on either of them. "We were surrounded by a celestial silence; the only sound I could hear was my own breathing." So remarkable was the experience in Aldrin's life, that he could have very easily returned home to Earth and put his feet up, calling his life a success.
But, Aldrin happily admits that the key to his own zest for living is that he refused to let that singular — albeit extraordinary — achievement be the pinnacle of his life. He continued to think about and ponder the possibilities of space travel, as well as endeavoring to explore as much of his own planet as possible, especially underwater, as scuba diving became a lifelong passion.
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But, what had always truly been his heart and mind's focus from his earliest days at M.I.T. was a manned mission to Mars, and today he is one of the most outspoken proponents of a Mars space program. The key to getting there, he says, is remaining innovative and forward-thinking. The "mind is like a parachute: If it isn't open it doesn't work." Above all else, Aldrin believes that being open to change and having a progressive outlook are crucial to societal advancement. "Even brilliant people can become entrenched in the status quo, stuck in the usual way of doing things." Progress only happens by stepping forward … or up.
"Ironically, in space exploration, as in business, or any other area of life, past success can be the greatest obstacle to future innovation." Risk-takers, forward-thinkers, steady types not crushed by the inevitability of failure, are all the sorts of people who will help the space program and all other innovative aspects of the human experience move forward into the future. Aldrin is a firm believer in the "pay it forward" outlook on life, for only then can future generations truly acquire what they need from those who came before them. If everyone gives "time, talent, or treasure," who knows how far we can go?
Maybe all the way to Mars.
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