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 onApollo 11, the first manned lunar landing in history. On July 20, 1969, he was the second human being to set foot on the Moon, following mission commander Neil Armstrong.
Life and career
Aldrin graduated third in his class at West Point in 1951 with a Bachelor of Science inmechanical engineering. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Forceand 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 LIFEmagazine 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 Base in Nevada, and next was an aide to the dean of faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy (which had recently begun operations in 1955). He flew F-100 Super Sabres as a flight commander atBitburg Air Base, Germany in the 22nd Fighter Squadron. Aldrin then earned his Doctor of Science in astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 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 Angeles before his selection as an astronaut.
Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASA astronauts in October 1963. Test pilot experience was no longer a requirement, so this was the first selection that he was eligible for. After the deaths of the original Gemini 9 prime crew, Elliot See and Charles Bassett, Aldrin was promoted with Jim Lovell 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 forEVA. Aldrin set a record for extra-vehicular activity and proved that astronauts could work outside spacecraft.
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. There was also a desire on NASA's part for the first person to step onto the Moon's surface be a civilian, which Armstrong was.
Buzz Aldrin was the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the Moon. Aldrin is, as he was, aPresbyterian. 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 gave himself Communion on the surface of the Moon, but he kept it secret because of a lawsuit brought by atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hairover 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, Texas, (a Houston suburb near the Johnson Space Center) possesses the chalice used for communion on the moon, and commemorates the event annually on the Sunday closest to July 20. Aldrin, a Freemason, also carried to the Moon a special deputization from Grand Master J. Guy Smith, with which to claim Masonic territorial jurisdiction over the Moon on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Texas.
After leaving NASA, Aldrin was assigned as the Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School atEdwards 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. 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. In 1995, he made a featured appearance in the Charlton Heston, Mickey Rooney,Deborah Winters film America: A Call to Greatness, directed by Warren Chaney.
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…"
He voiced in 2011 Futurama episode "Cold Warriors" as himself judging a high school science fair.
Criticism of NASA
In December 2003, Aldrin published in The New York Times an article criticizing NASA's objectives. In it, he voiced concern about NASA's development of aspacecraft "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".