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Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr., January 20, 1930) is an American mechanical engineer, retired United States Air Force pilot and astronaut who was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11, the first lunar landing. On July 20, 1969, he was the second person to set foot on the Moon, following his mission commander, Neil Armstrong.

Life and career

Aldrin was born in Glen Ridge, New Jerseymarker, to Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Sr., a career military man, and his wife Marion Moon. He is of Scottish, Swedish, and German ancestry. After graduating from Montclair High Schoolmarker in 1946, Aldrin turned down a full scholarship offer from The Massachusetts Institute of Technologymarker (MIT), and instead went to the U.S.marker Military Academymarker at West Pointmarker. 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

Col Aldrin as Commander, Air Force Test Pilot School
Aldrin graduated third in his class at West Pointmarker in 1951 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and served as a jet fighter pilot during 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 Russian pilots ejecting from his damaged aircraft.

After the war, Aldrin was assigned as an aerial gunnery instructor at Nellis Air Force Basemarker in Nevadamarker, and next was an aide to the dean of faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He flew F-100 Super Sabres as a flight commander at Bitburg Air Basemarker, Germanymarker in the 22nd Fighter Squadron. Aldrin then earned his Sc.D. degree in Astronautics from MIT. His graduate thesis was Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous. On completion of his doctorate, he was assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division in Los Angelesmarker, and finally to the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Basemarker, California.

NASA career

Aldrin walks on the surface of the Moon during Apollo 11.
Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASAmarker astronauts in October 1963. After the deaths of the original Gemini 9 prime crew, Elliot See and Charles Bassett, Aldrin was promoted to back-up 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 coordinate in space. He was confirmed as pilot on Gemini 12, the last Gemini mission and the last chance to prove methods for EVA. Aldrin set a record for extra-vehicular activity and proved that astronauts could work outside the spacecraft.

Aldrin's lunar footprint in a photo taken by him on July 20, 1969
On July 20, 1969, he was the second astronaut to walk on the moon and the first to have also spacewalked, keeping his record total EVA time until that was surpassed on Apollo 14. There has been much speculation about Aldrin's desire at the time to be the first astronaut to walk on the moon. According to different NASA accounts, he had originally been proposed as the first to step onto the Moon's surface, but due to the physical positioning of the astronauts inside the compact Lunar Landing Module, it was easier for the commander, Neil Armstrong, to be the first to exit the spacecraft.

Aldrin is a Presbyterian. After landing on the moon, Aldrin radioed earth: "I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way." He received Communion on the surface of the Moon, but 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 pastor's home Communion kit given to him by Dean Woodruff and recited words used by his pastor at Webster Presbyterian Church. Webster Presbyterian Church, a local congregation in Webster, Texasmarker (a Houstonmarker suburb near the Johnson Space Centermarker) possesses the chalice used for communion on the moon, and commemorates the event annually on the Sunday closest to July 20.

Aldrin Cycler

In 1985, Aldrin proposed the existence of a special spacecraft trajectory now known as the Aldrin cycler. A spacecraft traveling on an Aldrin cycler trajectory would pass near the planets Earth and Mars on a regular (cyclic) basis. The Aldrin cycler is an example of a Mars cycler.


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. His life improved considerably when he recognized and sought treatment for his problems, and with his marriage to Lois Aldrin. Since retiring from NASA, he has continued to promote space exploration, including producing a computer strategy game called Buzz Aldrin's Race Into Space (1993). To further promote space exploration, and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing, Buzz teamed up with Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones, Talib Kweli, and Soulja Boy to create the rap single and video, "Rocket Experience". Proceeds from video and song sales will benefit Buzz's non-profit foundation, ShareSpace.

He referred to a "Phobos monolith" in a July 22, 2009 interview with C-Span: "We should go boldly where man has not gone before. Fly by the comets, visit asteroids, visit the moon of Mars. There’s a monolith there. A very 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…”

Buzz Aldrin, February 2009

Criticism of NASA

In December 2003, Aldrin published an article criticizing NASA's objectives in the New York Times. 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".

Personal life

Aldrin has been married three times: to Joan Archer, with whom he had three children, James, Janice, and Andrew, to Beverly Zile, and to his current wife, Lois Driggs Cannon, whom he married on Valentine's Day, 1988. His battles against depression and alcoholism have been documented, most recently in his own memoir, "Magnificent Desolation." Aldrin is represented by the Executive Speakers Bureau of Memphismarker, Tennesseemarker, and receives between $30,000-$50,000 per appearance.


Pop culture and media

  • Buzz Aldrin made a guest star appearance in an episode of animated sitcom The Simpsons entitled "Deep Space Homer," in which the main character, Homer Simpson, signs up to NASAmarker as their first "Average Joe" astronaut. Aldrin displayed a good sense of humor about his status as second man on the moon, proclaiming "Second comes right after first!", while his introduction to Homer is met with absolute non-recognition.
  • The British television comedy group Monty Python, on October 20, 1970, ran an episode called the "Buzz Aldrin Show" with a few references to him and his photo superimposed over the credits while "The Star-Spangled Banner" was played.
  • Cliff Robertson played Aldrin in the 1976 TV-movie Return To Earth, based on the first of Aldrin's own two autobiographies, which described his struggles with clinical depression and alcoholism.
  • In 1986, after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster killed its entire crew, he appeared in the Punky Brewster episode "Accidents Happen," as himself, to encourage a disheartened Punky to continue pursuing her dream of becoming an astronaut.
  • Aldrin was portrayed by Larry Williams in the 1995 film Apollo 13.
  • Aldrin appeared on an episode of Celebrity Jeopardy! in November of 1996.
  • Aldrin played the role of Reverend Woodruff in the 1996 TV movie Apollo 11, while his own character was played by Xander Berkeley, who had previously played the small role of Henry Hurt in Apollo 13.
  • The matter of who would make the first step on the moon was dramatized in the 1998 miniseries From The Earth To The Moon, based on Andrew Chaikin's book A Man On The Moon, in which Aldrin was portrayed by Bryan Cranston.
  • The popular space ranger character Buzz Lightyear, from Pixar's Toy Story movie series, is named after him, largely due to the suggestion of the film's makers that he has "the coolest name of any astronaut." Aldrin acknowledged the tribute when he pulled a Buzz Lightyear doll out during a speech at NASA, to rapturous cheers; a clip of this can be found on the Toy Story 10th Anniversary DVD. He did not, however, receive any endorsement fees for the use of his first name.
  • Aldrin voiced himself in a 1999 episode of Disney's Recess.
  • Aldrin collaborated with science fiction author John Barnes to write Encounter With Tiber and The Return.
  • He appeared in a 2003 interview with Ali G (actually Sacha Baron Cohen) in the Britishmarker comedy series Ali G in da USA, during which Ali G referred to him as Buzz Lightyear and asked him if he thought man would ever walk on the sun.
    Aldrin near module leg
  • In 2005, Johan Harstad, a Norwegianmarker author, wrote Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You in All The Confusion? The main character of the book looks upon Buzz Aldrin as his role model.
  • In a 2006 episode of NUMB3RS titled "Killer Chat," Aldrin plays himself and is seen at the end escorting Larry from the FBI headquarters on his way to his launch to the International Space Station.
  • On December 26, 2006, UK TV channel Channel 4 transmitted a 50 minute opera by British composer Jonathan Dove called Man On The Moon, especially made for television. It tells the story of Aldrin's trip to the moon interleaved with the effects the experience had on him and his marriage. Aldrin was played by Nathan Gunn, and Joan Aldrin by Patricia Racette.
  • In 2007, Aldrin participated in the book and documentary In the Shadow of the Moon.
  • He plays himself in the 3-D animated film Fly Me To The Moon.
  • The story of Apollo 11, through the eyes of Aldrin, was recently reimagined as a musical. 'Moon Landing' was written, composed and directed by Stephen Edwards, and performed at Derby Playhousemarker, and included inventive scenery, including a floating shuttle capsule.
  • Aldrin is the model for the MTV Video Music Awards trophy known as the Moonman.
  • Psychedelic rock band Bardo Pond released a track called Aldrin on their Lapsed LP.
  • Aldrin was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on the July 31, 2008, episode of The Colbert Report, promoting the film Fly Me to the Moon.
  • Aldrin is one of the astronauts featured in the book and documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, and the documentary "The Wonder of it All."
  • In 2009 Buzz recorded a rap song called "The Rocket Experience". A making of video shows him working with Talib Kweli and Snoop Dogg. Others include Quincy Jones and Soulja Boy.
  • In the 2009 TV movie Moonshot, he was played by James Marsters.
  • On November 17, 2009, Buzz appeared on The Price Is Right in a space-themed Showcase to promote his new book (which was also included in the Showcase, as a bonus).

UFO claims

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, an NAI 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 away, but the panels were jettisoned before the S-IVB made its separation maneuver so they would closely follow the Apollo 11 spacecraft until its first midcourse correction. 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.

Interviewed by the Science Channel, Aldrin mentioned seeing unidentified objects, and he claims his words were taken out of context; he asked the Science Channel to clarify to viewers he did not see alien spacecraft, but they refused.

Hoax allegations

On September 9, 2002, filmmaker Bart Sibrel, a proponent of the Apollo moon landing hoax theory, confronted Aldrin and his stepdaughter outside a Beverly Hillsmarker, Californiamarker hotel. Sibrel said "You're the one who said you walked on the moon, when you didn't" and called Aldrin "a coward, and a liar, and a thief." Aldrin punched Sibrel in the face. Beverly Hills police and the city's prosecutor declined to file charges after witnesses confirmed that Sibrel had initiated physical contact. Sibrel suffered no serious injuries.


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