It’s okay to be afraid sometimes. It’s a completely natural feeling that all of us experience. But we can’t let fear dominate our lives. In my case, when it came to the one thing that scared me the most—that single fear that tormented me nearly every day—I knew the problem would only get worse unless I confronted it head-on. So, on July 21, 1969, I finally took the plunge. I conquered my fear of the moon once and for all by walking on it.
And if you struggle with a paralyzing fear of Earth’s only natural satellite like I used to, then I urge you to do the same: Propel yourself into lunar orbit, execute a controlled descent, and plant your boots in the moon’s powdery soil. Otherwise, that fear will gnaw at you forever.
Believe me, I know how helpless you might feel. Ever since I was little, I was terrified of the moon. For the first 35 years of my life, I couldn’t even go outside on clear nights without breaking into a cold sweat. But then one day, I just had enough, and I said to myself, “Buzz, you can’t keep on living this way.” I knew deep down I had no choice but to land on the moon’s surface, climb through that hatch, descend to the ground at one-sixth the gravity of Earth, and place my feet on the very thing that had always terrified me.
Trust me, it definitely gets easier the more you bound around up there. Heck, by the time I got around to planting the American flag, I couldn’t believe I’d ever been scared of the moon at all!
You see, you can’t let your fears get in the way of your life. No matter how tough you are, you’re bound to be scared at some point or another, but you just need to find a way to face those fears, whether they’re right in front of you or 238,900 miles away.
Now, don’t think you have to blast up to the moon and walk around on it all at once. Try easing into it by looking at pictures of the moon in a book. Or visit a science museum to see a moon rock up close—and, if you can, touch it—and realize that it can’t hurt you. Once you’re able to do that, you’re ready for the real thing.
The process of confronting your fear is actually easier than you think. Step one, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Step two, board a spacecraft that exits Earth’s atmosphere, making one and a half orbits before initiating a third-stage trans-lunar injection burn. Step three, visualize yourself meeting your fear face-to-face. And lastly, step four is to set down on the lunar surface and get out there already!
Also, if you’re like me, it really helps to take those first steps on the moon with the aid of someone you trust. I asked my friend Neil to come along, and boy, was I glad I did! I remember him egressing from the Lunar Module and saying, “See, Buzz? Nothing to fear!” In that moment, I realized that if he could do it, maybe I could too. My knees were shaking as I climbed down that ladder, but then I actually set foot on the moon, that big, frightening disk in the sky that had made me cower in fear for so long!
Sure, you might get a little nervous as you gingerly make contact with that gray alien landscape for the first time. But trust me, it definitely gets easier the more you bound around up there. Heck, by the time I got around to planting the American flag, I couldn’t believe I’d ever been scared of the moon at all!
But let me stress that no one’s going to do it for you. A fear of the moon isn’t one of those things you can simply think your way out of, or something that’ll just magically disappear on its own. The bottom line is that eventually, you’ve got to buck up and strap on that Portable Life Support System, otherwise you’ll spend your whole life just trying to avoid the moon entirely.
And is that any way to live?
So no more excuses. No more procrastinating. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how long you’ve been afraid of the moon—it’s never too late to perform a final telemetry check, power on the navigation and guidance computer, and inform Houston that your LEM has landed. Because the longer you put off depressurizing that cabin and beginning your extravehicular activity, the longer you’re cheating yourself of the carefree and confident lifestyle that comes with moving beyond your phobia of the moon. So, what do you say you rip the Band-Aid off and get up there to the Sea of Tranquility? You’ll be glad you did.
Because the last thing you want is to be like my poor buddy Michael Collins, who let his fear get the better of him and never left the Command Module, and who is, sadly, still petrified of the moon to this day.