Buzz Aldrin – Waterkeeper, Fall 2005
After his return from the moon, Buzz had the opportunity to become familiar with Buckminster Fuller (inventor of the Geodesic Dome and the phrase “spaceship Earth”) and his innovative architecture utilizing geodesic designs.
In fact, Buzz came to know “Bucky” personally while they were both living in Southern California in 1980. Buzz witnessed Bucky’s disciplined dedication to humanity through engineering and considered it to be one of the great privileges and inspirations in his life. Buzz’s only regret is not joining Bucky on a 1982 trip to Thailand for a conference where Bucky was speaking.
At this time America had been struggling to design a space station to complement the Shuttle missions first launched in 1981. At President Reagan’s urging in 1984, the ambitious Space Station Freedom was commenced. However, cost overruns, major re-designs, and Congress’s insufficient funding brought the program to a standstill by 1990.
It wasn’t until 1993 that the Clinton administration announced plans for a new space station design to be built by an international cooperative effort. This effort would transpose elements of Freedom’s design into the US module for the International Space Station.
Several years prior to Clinton’s announcement, Buzz felt inspired to apply Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic approach to designing a permanent modular space station in a cubo-octahedral shape. (A “cubo-octahedron” is a combination of a cube and eight-sided octahedron in which the octahedral faces meet at the middle of the cubic edges.)
Buzz designed the station to hold a crew of 8 to 10 astronauts in the central pressurized command modules housed within the cubo-octahedral structural trusses and framework. Spacecraft docking would be facilitated at 14 berthing spaces for crew and cargo transfers. The 8 tetrahedral-shaped modules and 6 pyramidal-shaped modules comprising the 14 berthing spaces would provide access to the central command module.
A practical feature of Buzz’s space station design is the recycling of rocket fuel tanks otherwise expendable during launch staging. Once emptied of fuel they would now serve a dual purpose as the modular building blocks of the permanent space station. With this approach, the station would be easily assembled in space, relatively lightweight and economical to contruct. In addition, its modular construction could be readily expanded in size.
Buzz submitted his patent application for a “Space Station Facility” to the US Patent & Trademark Office on February 12, 1991, and was awarded the patent on February 9, 1993.