Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon Hardcover – June 23, 2009
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Customers who bought this item also bought
From Publishers Weekly
Picking up the threads of his acclaimed 1973 autobiography, Return to Earth, Aldrin presents as no-holds-barred account of how his celebrity, career and human weaknesses nearly destroyed his life. On July 19, 1968, millions witnessed Neil Armstrong and Aldrin become the first two people on the moon; an instant American hero, Aldrin was "greeted with ticker-tape parades" and spent the next two years, along with his fellow astronauts, as public relations assets for NASA and the Nixon administration. With a PhD from MIT, Aldrin had not only spent eight years training for the mission, but also helped developed technology needed for the mission; upon returning home from his world tour as an "unofficial space ambassador," however, he found the doors at NASA "pretty much closed"; the moon-landing program had given way to the shuttle project. That homecoming would catapult Aldrin into a decades-long struggle with alcoholism and clinical depression (both his grandfather and mother committed suicide) that broke up two marriages before psychiatric treatment and rehab put him on the road to recovery. This inspiring story exhibits Aldrin as a different, perfectly human kind of hero, giving readers a sympathetic look at a man eclipsed by his own legend.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Buzz Aldrin relives the Magnificent Desolation of space, and the soul-sucking depression that awaited back home."
–Vanity Fair, “Hot Type”
"An admirable account of an icon of the golden age of space flight."
“Space fans, in particular, will cheer.”
“Aldrin presents a no-holds-barred account of how his celebrity, career and human weaknesses nearly destroyed his life….This inspiring story exhibits Aldrin as a different, perfectly human kind of hero, giving readers a sympathetic look at a man eclipsed by his own legend.”
“Buzz Aldrin relives the Magnificent Desolation of space, and the soul-sucking depression that awaited back home."
–Vanity Fair, “Hot Type”
“Leads the field of new releases.The candid portrayal of his earthly battles—often written with great humor—make this a cut above the rest….Great holiday reading.”
“Captivating….an engaging first-hand account by one of history’s most important explorers.”
–Alive East Bay
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
There is ambivalence in the very title "Magnificent Desolation," as it is not clear whether the phrase refers to outer space or Aldrin's inner space. Aside from a splendid narrative of his role in Apollo XI that opens the book, this is a work about the astronaut's adventures and misadventures post 1969, of which he had plenty of both. Little could he know, in 1973, that his first autobiography was not the final word, but simply a milepost along a hard road to health and wholeness.
Aldrin was an alcoholic, most likely before Apollo XI and certainly afterward, but the astronaut corps of the time was a hard drinking fraternity in which excess of that sort was scarcely visible. Moreover, his outstanding R&D efforts involving extravehicular dexterity on his Gemini XII flight with Lovell in 1966 made him respected, if not loved, within NASA, and his personal issues never seemed to have crossed the Apollo XI radar, except to the degree that NASA's inner circle did give considerable thought to his working relationships; the unflappable Armstrong proved to be the best fit for the overachieving, self-confident, and somewhat arrogant Aldrin. However, the challenge of post-Apollo life worried Aldrin and in the midst of the world-wide media frenzy after the moon flight , the famous `first man on the moon" stamp--bearing Neil Armstrong's image alone--was unveiled, reopening a long festering wound and sparking new excuses for self indulgence.
But beyond alcohol and hurt feelings, Aldrin simply did not know what to do with himself. He envied Armstrong's contentment with pure engineering and his gradual withdrawal to academic life. He became vaguely aware that his problems might be emotional in nature, even raising the issue of astronaut psychology obliquely to a conference of aerospace doctors. Most readers will recognize his symptoms as depressed mood; the difficulty then was incredulity among his friends and caregivers--including Aldrin himself--that a celebrated moonwalker could be so afflicted. Between depression and alcoholism, he embarked upon a series of impulsive, indulgent, and ill-advised decisions, including divorcing his wife and serving as something of an absentee landlord at Edwards Air Force Base, where he headed the test pilots' school. Sensing deterioration, in 1973, four years after Apollo XI, Aldrin decided to write his tell-all book about his depression and marital difficulties, though without mention of his drinking.
Aldrin's drinking continued unabated for the next half-dozen years. His self-report of the drinking years in this work is sadly similar to that of millions of alcoholics, except that as a member of the Apollo XI crew his trouble was fairly public knowledge. A period of sobriety led to a made-for-TV movie, after which the astronaut returned to drinking. At one point, a mere five years after Apollo XI, he was reduced to selling cars--and failed at that.
Many astronauts were profoundly and deeply affected by their Apollo moon excursions, not just Aldrin. Jim Irwin's post-flight quixotic search for Noah's Ark is one of the best known of a series of remarkable transformations. For Aldrin, depression and substance abuse--the latter finally brought under control in October, 1978--were in some respects the tip of the iceberg of his restless difficulties. For a man of high intelligence and technological brilliance, Aldrin was also highly imaginative and carried an entrepreneur's gene or two in his DNA. Perhaps of all the astronauts he best realized the unthinkable technical achievement of the Apollo Program, and grieved its eventual demise--less over his own future opportunities than for what we might call the humanitarian/scientific opportunities of the human species.
Aldrin reveals himself as a "big picture" sort of guy. He discloses this about himself almost unwittingly, from his narrative of the projects, visions, and ideas he has expounded to about anyone who would listen, down to the present day. He designed, for example, a concept he called "the cycler," a means of using permanent orbiting space vehicles as "shuttlers" between the earth and the moon, and eventually Mars. But the Martian cycler best illustrates Aldrin's frustration: NASA's Tom Paine told him in 1984 that taxpayers would not fund such ventures, and as Aldrin himself ruefully admits, he began to earn a reputation as a guy with "harebrained ideas." 
Gradually Aldrin came down to earth, figuratively speaking, through the 1980's, indebted in no small part to the energy and affection of his second wife, and gradual improvement in the treatment of his chronic depression. Although ever the wide-eyed enthusiast, he seemed to come to peace with a recreated persona as general spokesman for the exploration of space. He kept himself in the public eye, appearing on multiple television programs and interviews, including "The Simpsons." His lifestyle appeared to some as self-aggrandizement, but in my view his behavior spoke more of "don't forget me and my profession." At the end of the day, the reader is more likely to conclude that Aldrin, considering his inner demons, warts, and a uniquely perplexing place in the history books, is no defiant space cowboy, but rather, a complex man who struggled in black-and-white worlds.