Alcohol, divorce, crisis of meaning - the most difficult part of the journey to the moon is the return to earth 2

Alcohol, divorce, crisis of meaning – the most difficult part of the journey to the moon is the return to earth

Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong act as if they were coming from another star on October 19, 1969 in this TV interview, one of the innumerable appearances after the lunar stay. (Image: imago)

Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong act as if they were coming from another star on October 19, 1969 in this TV interview, one of the innumerable appearances after the lunar stay. (Image: imago)

Many moon riders find it very difficult to find their daily life after returning to Earth. They become alcoholics, find Jesus or seek extraterrestrials.

Beat Grossrieder

The twelve Americans who entered the Moon between 1969 and 1972 are in good physical and mental condition as trained pilots. They spent half of their lives on the joystick, in the simulator and in the classroom, some dropped bombs during the Korean War, others flew with jet planes as fast and as high than anyone. These are men who wear their jackets and sunglasses with the same casualness as James Dean or Elvis Presley and who breathe kerosene.

But then they are back from their mission in the unknowns that destroy life at 380,000 kilometers – and their supposedly heroic powers fall to them like the lunar dust of the spacesuit. Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo-11 astronaut, the second man on the moon after Neil Armstrong, said in 1972: "After walking the moon, everything else is disappointing." You simply can not beat that. "Instead, you come to accept this world that is" far from perfect ". First, Aldrin, Armstrong and Major Michael Collins collapse like a cannonball from the sky and crash into the Pacific, paralyzed by parachutes. But he then falls deeply and suffers "a good old American nervous breakdown".

In the summer of 1969, the three astronauts participated in the "Presidential Goodwill Tour Giantstep-Apollo 11". 24 countries in 45 days. Mumbai, Mexico City, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo. In London, they meet Queen Elizabeth II, in Madrid General Franco. He runs a lot of alcohol, he is shaking countless hands and autographs distributed. The triumph of the Americans to be on the moon in front of the Russians is to be enjoyed until the last Konfettiregen. In September, the trio is invited to address a speech of thanks to the 535 congressmen gathered together with President Nixon and to complete the song of patriotic praise.

Deep crater

This appearance was more difficult for him than flying to the moon, says Aldrin in his autobiography "Return to Earth" (1973). In his brief speech he spent hours in the sweat bath; He was aware that his life would never be the same again. "In one way or another, I was not prepared for what was going to happen," said Aldrin. The NASA training covered all conceivable contingencies up to the utmost technical urgency. But the deep emotional craters that sometimes open after landing in front of the astronauts are hard to anticipate.

The Earthbelt mission is a biographical break: there is life before and after the moon. Buzz Aldrin falls into alcohol, suffers from depression, is hospitalized and divorces three times. His third wife, Lois, said about the known for his bursts of heaven: "Fly to the moon, he can, but a cup of coffee will not give him anything." Neil Armstrong, the "silence" of Apollo 11, is still struggling back to the snail shell, barely talking, almost never seen on occasions. He separates after 38 years of marriage of his wife Janet and dies in 2012 with 82 years.

Pete Conrad (Apollo 12, 1969), the third man on the moon, also needs thrills: divorce, business, fast cars. In 1999, he died at 69 in a motorcycle accident. His mission colleague, Alan Bean, casts a spell on art. Soon he painted only oil paintings showing rockets, the moon and himself as astronauts. The artist is successful, critics talk about "kitsch moon landing".

Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14, 1971) manages to maintain orderly privacy. However, he returns to Earth with the firm belief that there must be supernatural phenomena and extraterrestrial life. He founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which deals with clairvoyance, psychokinesis, quantum holography, telepathy and ufology. Mitchell is certain that extraterrestrials have visited our planet several times and contacted Earthlings. Evidence of this would be deliberately kept under lock and key by the state. "We will not accept that intelligent life exists outside the Earth before we collide with an alien at the time of purchase," Mitchell said in an interview in 2006.

The shock flyover

Mitchell, although he died in 2016, still figures today among the active members of what is called the Overview Institute, primarily active in the digital space. It deals with the question of how much this can change a person who suddenly sees the entire globe from space. Synthesis experts speak of a "shock" with far-reaching consequences: capture the earth in the black universe as black, reverse the mental image of a person. If you stand on the moon, you can cover the earth completely with the thumb of your outstretched hand. What seemed great was suddenly small; what was considered null becomes essential. Like shooting stars, the viewer would be able to think through the head of meaning: What is the origin of creation? How does the delicate balance between the thin atmosphere that makes life possible and the nothing in danger of death work?

The crew of Apollo 11 during a parade on August 15, 1969 in New York. The destination is City Hall, where they receive rewards. (Image: imago)

The crew of Apollo 11 during a parade on August 15, 1969 in New York. The destination is City Hall, where they receive rewards. (Image: imago)

David Scott (Apollo 15, 1971) appears as a pragmatist. Knowing the symbolic content of his Apollo mission, he illegally takes a stack of envelopes into the cabin for sale after landing as moon-swept memories. His colleague from Apollo 15, James Irwin, adheres to the contract, but regrets it immediately as he becomes a deeply religious man on the moon. When Irwin paces the moon's dust and is caught in an experience, he is struck with inspiration: why not, as he did in his childhood, take the Almighty into prayer? "Dear God," Irwin mumbled in his helmet, "I need your help now.," At the moment he had a loud awakening: "I felt that there was someone with me who [. . .] m protected [. . .] What has touched me deeply in the soul and transformed my life, is that I have felt the presence of God. "

After the rocket Noah's ark

In 1972, Irwin founded the "High Flight Foundation" and then traveled the world as a traveling preacher. On several occasions, he goes on pilgrimage to Mount Ararat, in the border area of ​​Armenia, Iran and Turkey, where he seeks to find the ark of Noah. The company did not succeed until his death in 1991. Once Irwing wants to have discovered a clear inscription on Noah on a rock, he believes another time at the brutal summit of Ararat to spy on old boards of ships.

The "youngest" lunar pilot Charles Duke, born in 1935, also lives a serious crisis of meaning: he becomes a moonwalker with John Young on Apollo 16. Duke goes down in history as one of those astronauts who had enough to constantly abandon his wife and two grandchildren to train at NASA. Therefore, he symbolically took them to compensate for the moon. The dukes put on their Sunday clothes, go to a studio photographer and take a family picture. Papa Duke wraps it in a protective film, puts it in the chest pocket of his spacesuit and drops it off during his last walk in the moon dust. He will always be up there today, because there is neither wind nor bad weather on the moon.

Back on the sofa at home, the pilot is completely shaken. He searches for alcohol, creates a beer distribution and slips right after a divorce. He dreads the prospect of staying on Earth for the rest of his life. The duke becomes depressed – and finally finds Jesus. With his wife, he enters a free church and since then travels the world as a convinced lecturer.

Harrison Schmitt, with Eugene Cernan, last astronaut on the moon (Apollo 17), does not enter the church or ufology after landing, but rather in politics; he becomes Republican Senator of New Mexico. He soon turns out to be a skeptic about the climate, which earned him the praise of President Donald Trump.