Astronaut flies in

It’s not every day that people get
the opportunity to shake hands with an astronaut, let alone dive with one.

But that’s exactly what happened
over the weekend when the legendary Buzz Aldrin, who walked on the moon on 20
July, 1969, visited Cayman as part of a tour under the Astronaut Scholarship
Foundation.

The foundation was set up in 1984
by Mercury astronauts with the mission of providing college scholarships to top
science and engineering students across the United States. Throughout the year,
fundraisers are arranged offering one-on-one astronaut experiences such as
Scuba diving with an astronaut.

The executive director of the
foundation approached local dive company Divetech asking for support, which
they were happy to provide, including complimentary accommodation and dives
that could be auctioned to assist the scholarship programme.

Mr. Aldrin and his wife Lois were
accompanied by Linn LeBlank and Nicole Russ of the Astronaut Scholarship
Foundation, and auctioneer Tom O’Conner.

Fans aplenty

While on-island, the 80-year-old
astronaut enjoyed a two-tank trip in the morning before visiting Stingray City
and finally doing a scooter dive. Lois Aldrin went to Silver Rain Spa for a
facial.

On Sunday night, Mezza bar had a
special cocktail reception, where Mr. Aldrin posed for photos with fans for
well over half an hour, including acting Director of Tourism Shomari Scott and
MLA Cline Glidden, with whom he spoke of his admiration for Cayman’s diving experience.
The astronaut showed fans shots of previous dives on his iPad and said that he
first visited the Cayman Islands in the late 1970s. He added that he and his
wife remembered their stays at the Almond Tree on West Bay Road. Mrs. Aldrin,
resplendent in a spangly gold jumpsuit, called Cayman a beautiful place and
said that she loved the islands and the Cayman Islands people.

Successful event

Erin Bodden of the Cayman Islands
Tourism Association said that the visit had been great from everyone’s point of
view.

“Mr. Aldrin, who is also known for
his appearances on Dancing with the Stars recently, seemed to be a real
character, and those who had a chance to dive with him here in Cayman said he
was hamming it up under water – doing somersaults underwater and walking on the
bottom of the dive boat.

“It truly was a once in a lifetime
experience and CITA is grateful to Nancy Easterbrook for organizing this event
and bringing this wonderful man to Cayman in conjunction with the Astronaut
Scholarship Foundation. She raised quite a bit of money for this prize trip so
it was  successful in more ways than
one,” said Ms. Bodden.

Organisers said they were grateful
for all help from other sponsors in making the even happen, including
Lighthouse Point, Mezza, Cobalt Coast and Red Sail Sports.

The Astronaut Scholarship
Foundation’s next trip to Cayman is scheduled for November with a visit by
Brigadier General (Ret.) Charlie Duke, who like Mr. Aldrin is one of only 12
people to have walked on the moon.

LOCALBuzzAldrinSTORY

Shomari Scott, Buzz Aldrin, Lois Aldrin and Cline Glidden.
Photo: Submitted
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