September 14, 2013 11:00 am

Countdown to Sunday’s “StarTalk Live at Town Hall with Buzz Aldrin (Part 1)”

Photo shot backstage at Town Hall of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Eugene Mirman, Buzz Aldrin, John Oliver, Andrew Chaikin, 2-27-13.

Behind the Scenes: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Eugene Mirman, Buzz Aldrin, John Oliver and Andrew Chaikin backstage at Town Hall just before the show. Credit: Jeffrey Simons

We didn’t find out who the special guests were going to be at StarTalk Live at Town Hall last February until shortly before the show. There was a hint – it was going to be “out of this world” – and one of our fans guessed that it would be Buzz Aldrin the day before, even though I hadn’t had that confirmed to me yet!

The other surprise guest was John Oliver, who at the time was one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents. (This was before Jon Stewart had announced his hiatus, and that Oliver would be filling in as host.)

If you missed that show, now’s your chance to hear what everyone was raving about. (And by the way, to ensure nobody misses the upcoming StarTalk Live at Town Hall, on Nov. 4th, we’ve set up a pretty big fan presale window, which started yesterday at noon and will run until Tuesday, 9/17 at Noon ET, when tickets go on sale to the general public. You can get your tickets now at The code to purchase tickets for the presale is: COSMIC. Just click on the text that says “Have an offer code?” and then type in COSMIC, and you’re in!)

In addition to Buzz and John, and of course Neil deGrasse Tyson and Eugene Mirman, the show featured Andrew Chaikin, a planetary geologist, author of A Man on the Moon, which was the basis for the Ron Howard/Tom Hanks’ 12-part miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon.

Part 1 of StarTalk Live at Town Hall with Buzz Aldrin explores some of the reasons we went to the Moon and what the space race with the Soviet Union felt like from Buzz’s point of view. Neil and Andrew, both experts on NASA and the space program, have plenty to say on the subjects as well. Buzz also describes his unlikely journey from dogfighting MiGs over Korea to M.I.T. to NASA, Gemini 12 and ultimately, landing on the Moon in Apollo 11. They also talked about the future of space exploration, returning to the Moon, and going to Mars.

John and Eugene sat next to each other on the stage, providing a sort of comic Greek chorus that kept everyone in the audience laughing all night. Except when, surprisingly, Buzz Aldrin upstaged them with some of the funniest lines of the evening.

Two of my three favorite moments that night happened backstage. One was that I finally got to meet one of my childhood heroes, Buzz Aldrin. Ever since my 8-year-old self watched nearly every moment of the historic journey of Apollo 11, Buzz has had a prime spot in my mental hall of heroes. (You don’t have one, too?) And the other was hearing John Oliver describe what it was like preparing for the nightly Daily Show. The amount of work that goes into each broadcast under incredible time pressure is barely evident in the shows… which is exactly how I think they want it. (We can’t have them looking too serious about their “fake news” now, can we?)

I’ll tell you about my third favorite moment next week, in my preview post for Next Sunday’s conclusion to StarTalk Live at Town Hall with Buzz Aldrin (Part 2). In fact, I may even have a little show and tell.

In the meantime, you get to decide what your favorite moments are, at least in Part 1. You can listen to the show this Sunday at 7:00pm ET on our website, and on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher by 7:30pm ET.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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