Buzz Aldrin

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Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. , January 20, 1930) is an American engineer and former astronaut. As the Lunar Module Pilot on Apollo 11, he was one of the first two humans to land on the Moon, and the second person to walk on it. He set foot on the Moon at 03:15:16 on July 21, 1969 ( UTC), following mission commander Neil Armstrong. He is a former U.S. Air Force officer with the Command Pilot rating.




Early life

Aldrin was born January 20, 1930, in Mountainside Hospital, which straddles both Glen Ridge and Montclair, in Essex County, New Jersey. His birth certificate lists Glen Ridge as his birthplace. [2] His parents were Edwin Eugene Aldrin Sr. (1896–1974), a career military man, and Marion (Moon) Gaddys (1903–1968), who lived in Montclair. [3] [4] He is of Scottish, Swedish, [5] and German ancestry. Aldrin was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of Tenderfoot Scout. [6]

After graduating from Montclair High School in 1947, [2] [7] Aldrin turned down a full scholarship offer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (which he would later attend for graduate school), and went to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. The nickname "Buzz" originated in childhood: the younger of his two elder sisters mispronounced "brother" as "buzzer", and this was shortened to Buzz. Aldrin made it his legal first name in 1988.

Military career

Aldrin graduated third in his class at West Point in 1951, with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force and served as a jet fighter pilot throughout the Korean War. He flew 66 combat missions in F-86 Sabres and shot down two Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 aircraft. The June 8, 1953, issue of Life magazine featured gun camera photos taken by Aldrin of one of the Soviet pilots ejecting from his damaged aircraft. [9]

After the war, Aldrin was assigned as an aerial gunnery instructor at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and next was an aide to the dean of faculty at the United States Air Force Academy, which had recently begun operations in 1955. That same year, he graduated from the Squadron Officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. He flew F-100 Super Sabres as a flight commander at Bitburg Air Base, West Germany, in the 22d Fighter Squadron. In 1963 Aldrin earned a Doctor of Science degree in Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. [10] His graduate thesis was "Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous" , [11] the dedication of which read, "In the hopes that this work might in a few way contribute to their exploration of space, this is dedicated to the crew members of this country’s present and future manned space programs. If only I could join them in their exciting endeavors!"

On completion of his doctorate, he was assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division in Los Angeles before his selection as an astronaut. His initial application to join the astronaut corps was rejected on the basis of never having been a test pilot; that prerequisite was lifted when he re-applied and was accepted into the third astronaut class.

NASA career

Aldrin was selected as a member of the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963. Because test pilot experience was no longer a requirement, this was the first selection for which he was eligible. After the deaths of the original Gemini 9 prime crew, Elliot See and Charles Bassett, Aldrin and Jim Lovell were promoted to backup crew for the mission. The main objective of the revised mission ( Gemini 9A) was to rendezvous and dock with a target vehicle, but when this failed, Aldrin improvised an effective exercise for the craft to rendezvous with a co-ordinate in space. He was confirmed as pilot on Gemini 12, the last Gemini mission and the last chance to prove methods for extravehicular activity (EVA). He set a record for EVA, demonstrating that astronauts could work outside spacecraft.

Aldrin was chosen for the crew of Apollo 11 and made the first lunar landing with commander Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969. The next day, Aldrin became the second person to walk on the Moon, keeping his record total EVA time until that was surpassed on Apollo 14. Aldrin's first words on the Moon were "Beautiful view." Then, in response to Armstrong asking, "Isn't it magnificent?", he responded, "Magnificent desolation." [14] He was additionally the first person to urinate on the moon. [15] [16] [17]

There has been speculation about the extent of Aldrin's desire at the time to be the first astronaut to walk on the Moon and its impact on his pre-flight, in-mission and post-flight actions. [18] According to different NASA accounts, the Lunar Module Pilot (i.e. Aldrin on Apollo 11) had originally been proposed as the first to step onto the Moon's surface in early versions of the EVA checklist, and when Aldrin became aware that this might be amended, he lobbied within NASA for the original procedure to be followed. A number of factors seem to have contributed to the final decision, including the physical positioning of the astronauts inside the compact lunar lander, which made it easier for Armstrong to be the first to exit the spacecraft. Also, Armstrong was the Mission Commander, and additional senior astronauts who would command later Apollo missions (and who might have ended up making the first landing in the event of failure on Apollo 11) weren't sympathetic to Aldrin's views. Aldrin's pre-flight actions/record and post-flight responses on the issue seem to be adequately summed up by Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot Michael Collins's comment, "I think he resents not being first on the moon more than he appreciates being second."

Aldrin, a Presbyterian, was the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the Moon. After landing on the Moon, he radioed Earth: "I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they might be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in their own way." He took communion on the surface of the Moon, but he kept it secret because of a lawsuit brought by atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair over the reading of Genesis on Apollo 8. Aldrin, a church elder, used a home communion kit given to him, and recited words used by his pastor at Webster Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Dean Woodruff. [19] The communion elements were the first food and liquid consumed on the Moon: in Guideposts , Aldrin stated: "It was interesting to think that the quite first liquid ever poured on the Moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements." [20]

Later Aldrin commented on the event: "Perhaps, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't choose to celebrate communion. Although it was a deeply meaningful experience for me, it was a Christian sacrament, and we had come to the Moon in the name of all mankind – be they Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, agnostics, or atheists. But at the time I could think of no better way to acknowledge the enormity of the Apollo 11 experience than by giving thanks to God." [20] Mindful of the controversy caused by the Bible readings made the Apollo 8 crew, the NASA management had warned the Apollo 11 crew against making any explicit religious comments throughout the flight. Notwithstanding in the final Apollo 11 TV broadcast throughout the return journey to Earth, Aldrin quoted from Psalm 8 (verses 3 and 4) "I’ve been reflecting the events of the past several days and a verse from the Psalms comes to mind to me. 'When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what's man that thou art mindful of him?'". [21] [22] This particular quote seems to have been accepted as a personal observation and didn't precipitate any controversy.


After leaving NASA in July 1971, Aldrin was assigned as the Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. In March 1972, Aldrin retired from active duty after 21 years of service, and returned to the Air Force in a managerial role, but his career was blighted by personal problems. His autobiographies Return to Earth, published in 1973, and Magnificent Desolation, published in June 2009, both provide accounts of his struggles with clinical depression and alcoholism in the years following his NASA career. Aldrin's life improved considerably when he recognised and sought treatment for his problems. Since retiring from NASA, he has continued to promote space exploration. In 1987 he founded the Space Studies graduate programme at the University of North Dakota. Later, he produced a computer strategy game called Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space (1993). To further promote space exploration, and to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the first lunar landing, Aldrin teamed up with Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones, Talib Kweli, and Soulja Boy to create the rap single and video, "Rocket Experience", with proceeds from video and song sales to benefit Aldrin's non-profit foundation, ShareSpace. [23]

He referred to a " Phobos monolith " in a July 22, 2009, interview with C-SPAN: "We should go boldly where man hasn't gone before. Fly by the comets, visit asteroids, visit the moon of Mars. There's a monolith there. A quite unusual structure on this potato shaped object that goes around Mars once in seven hours. When people find out about that they're going to say 'Who put that there? Who put that there?' The universe put it there. If you choose, God put it there…" [3]

Aldrin has voiced parody versions of himself in two of Matt Groening's animated series: The Simpsons episode " Deep Space Homer ", in which he accompanies Homer Simpson on a trip into space as part of NASA's plan to improve its public appearance, and the Futurama episode " Cold Warriors ". In 2011, Aldrin appeared as himself in the film Transformers: Dark of the Moon , where he explains to Optimus Prime and the Autobots that the Apollo 11 mission additionally discovered a Cybertronian ship on the Moon whose existence was concealed from the public.

In 2012, he made a cameo appearance in Japanese drama film Space Brothers . Aldrin appeared as himself in the Big Bang Theory episode, "The Holographic Excitation", which aired on October 25, 2012. Aldrin additionally lent his voice talents to the 2012 video game Mass Effect 3 , playing a stargazer who appears in the game's final scene.

Aldrin cycler

In 1985, Aldrin proposed the existence of a special spacecraft trajectory now known as the Aldrin cycler. [3] [3] Aldrin's system of cycling spacecraft makes travel to Mars possible using far less propellant than conventional means, with an expected five and a half month journey from the Earth to Mars, and a return trip to Earth of about the same duration on a twin-cycler. Aldrin is still working on this with engineers from Purdue University. [3]

Bart Sibrel incident

On September 9, 2002, Aldrin was lured to a Beverly Hills hotel on the pretext of being interviewed for a Japanese children's television show on the subject of space. When he arrived, Apollo conspiracy proponent Bart Sibrel accosted him with a film crew and demanded he swear on a Bible that the Moon landings weren't faked, insisting that Aldrin and others had lied about walking on the Moon. After a brief confrontation, in which Sibrel called him "a coward and a liar", [3] Aldrin punched Sibrel in the jaw, which was caught on camera by Sibrel's film crew. The police determined that Aldrin was provoked and no charges were filed. [28] Aldrin dedicates a chapter to this incident in his autobiography Magnificent Desolation . [3]


Criticism of NASA's 2003 return-to-Moon objectives

In December 2003, Aldrin published an opinion piece in The New York Times criticising NASA's objectives. [29] In it, he voiced concern about NASA's development of a spacecraft "limited to transporting four astronauts at a time with little or no cargo carrying capability" and declared the goal of sending astronauts back to the Moon was "more like reaching for past glory than striving for new triumphs". [29]

Support of a manned mission to Mars

In June 2013, Aldrin wrote an opinion, published in The New York Times , supporting a manned mission to Mars and which viewed the Moon "not as a destination but more a point of departure, one that places humankind on a trajectory to homestead Mars and become a two-planet species." [30] In August 2015, Aldrin, in association with the Florida Institute of Technology, presented a "master plan", for NASA consideration, for astronauts, with a "tour of duty of ten years", to colonise Mars before the year 2040. [31]

Climate change

In 2009, Aldrin commented on climate change by saying: "I think the climate has been changing for billions of years. If it's warming now, it might cool off later. I'm not in favour of just taking short-term isolated situations and depleting our resources to keep our climate just the way it is today. I'm not necessarily of the school that we're causing it all, I think the world is causing it." [32]


Books co-authored by Aldrin include Return to Earth (1973), Men From Earth (1989), Reaching for the Moon (2005), Look to the Stars (2009) and Magnificent Desolation (2009). He has additionally co-authored with John Barnes the science fiction novels Encounter with Tiber (1996) and The Return (2000). His book Mission to Mars was published in May 2013. In April 2016, he released his latest book, No Dream is Too High .

Personal life

Aldrin has been married three times. His first marriage was to Joan Archer (1930–2015), the mother of his three children (James, Janice and Andrew). His second marriage was to Beverly Zile. His third marriage was to Lois Driggs Cannon, from whom he filed for divorce on June 15, 2011, in Los Angeles, citing " irreconcilable differences ". [33] The divorce was finalised on December 28, 2012. [34] He has one grandson, Jeffrey Schuss, born to his daughter, Janice.

His battles against depression and alcoholism, upon returning home from the Apollo 11 mission, have been documented, most recently in Magnificent Desolation . [35] [36] Aldrin is an active supporter of the Republican Party, headlining fundraisers for GOP members of Congress. [37]

In 2007, Aldrin confirmed to Time magazine that he had recently had a face-lift ; [38] he joked that the G-forces he was exposed to in space "caused a sagging jowl that needed a few attention." [38]

Aldrin commented on the death of his Apollo 11 colleague, Neil Armstrong, saying that he was "deeply saddened by the passing. I know I'm joined by millions of others in mourning the passing of a true American hero and the best pilot I ever knew. I had truly hoped that on July 20th, 2019, Neil, Mike and I would be standing together to commemorate the fiftieth Anniversary of our Moon landing...Regrettably, this isn't to be." [39] [40]


Awards and honors

Air Force Master Astronaut badge
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
with cluster
Legion of Merit Distinguished Flying Cross
with cluster
Air Medal
with two clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal Outstanding Unit Award
Presidential Medal of Freedom
with Distinction
NASA Distinguished Service Medal NASA Exceptional Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
with one star
Korean Service Medal
with two stars
Air Force Longevity Service Award
with four clusters
Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Korea Medal Korean War Service Medal

Detached adapter panel sighting

In 2005, while being interviewed for a documentary titled First on the Moon: The Untold Story , Aldrin told an interviewer that they saw an unidentified flying object. Aldrin told David Morrison, a NASA Astrobiology Institute senior scientist, that the documentary cut the crew's conclusion that they were probably seeing one of four detached spacecraft adapter panels. Their S-IVB upper stage was 6,000 miles (9,700 km) away, but the four panels were jettisoned before the S-IVB made its separation manoeuvre so they would closely follow the Apollo 11 spacecraft until its first midcourse correction. [5] When Aldrin appeared on The Howard Stern Show on August 15, 2007, Stern asked him about the supposed UFO sighting. Aldrin confirmed that there was no such sighting of anything deemed extraterrestrial, and said they were and are "99.9 percent" sure that the object was the detached panel. [5] [6]

Interviewed by the Science Channel, Aldrin mentioned seeing unidentified objects, and according to Aldrin his words were taken out of context; he asked the Science Channel to clarify to viewers he didn't see alien spacecraft, but they refused. [54]

Film and television


Film and television roles
Year Title Role Notes
1976 The Boy in the Plastic Bubble Himself TV movie
1989 After Dark Himself Extended appearance on British discussion program, with amongst others Heinz Wolff, Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Whitley Strieber
1994 The Simpsons Himself (voice) Episode: " Deep Space Homer "
1997 Space Ghost Coast to Coast Himself 2 episodes
1999 Disney's Recess Himself (voice) Episode: " Space Cadet "
2003 Da Ali G Show Himself 2 episodes
2006 Numb3rs Himself Episode: " Killer Chat "
2007 In the Shadow of the Moon Himself Documentary
2008 Fly Me to the Moon Himself Â
2010 30 Rock Himself Episode: " The Moms "
2010 Dancing with the Stars Himself/contestant 2nd eliminated in season 10
2011 Transformers: Dark of the Moon Himself Â
2011 Futurama Himself (voice) Episode: " Cold Warriors "
2012 Space Brothers Himself Â
2012 The Big Bang Theory Himself Episode: "The Holographic Excitation"
2012 Mass Effect 3 The Stargazer (voice) Video Game
2015 Jorden runt på 6 steg Himself Successfully tested six degrees of separation

Portrayed by others

Aldrin has been portrayed by:

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Year 731 ( DCCXXXI ) was a common year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar. The denomination 731 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.


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