Aldrin, Buzz

Buzz Aldrin was an American mechanical engineer, pilot, and astronaut who was on the first lunar landing mission. He was also the second person to walk on the moon. He was born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. on January 20, 1930 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Aldrin had a successful public education, graduating from Montclair High School in 1946. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated third in his class in 1951 with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and served as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. After the war, Aldrin was appointed as an aerial gunnery instructor at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. He flew F-100 Super Sabres as a flight commander at Bitburg Air Base, Germany in the 22nd Fighter Squadron. Aldrin then earned his Sc.D. degree in Astronautics from MIT. In 1967, Aldrin received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Gustavus Adolphus College. Throughout his time in the Air Force, Aldrin received many awards, including the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and three awards of the Air Medal.

In 1963, Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASA astronauts. He was then confirmed as pilot on Gemini 12, where he set a record for extra-vehicular activity and proved that astronauts could work outside the spacecraft. On July 21, 1969, while aboard Apollo 11, he became the second astronaut to walk on the moon and the first to have also spacewalked. Buzz Aldrin was the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the Moon. After landing, Aldrin radioed to Earth asking listeners, to take a moment and give thanks in their own way. For Aldrin, this meant giving himself Communion on the surface of the Moon. NASA has since awarded him the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, and two awards of the NASA Space Flight Medal.

In March 1972, after 21 years of service, Aldrin retired from active duty in the Air Force and returned in a managerial role. However, his personal life struggles with depression and alcoholism would stain his 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. In 1985, Aldrin planned for a special spacecraft trajectory now known as the Aldrin cycler. A spacecraft traveling on an Aldrin cycler trajectory would be anticipated to pass near Earth and Mars on a cyclic basis. He was also involved in training astronauts underwater to better prepare them for space walks and duties of maintenance while in space. After being divorced twice, Aldrin took another shot at love on February 14, 1988 when he married his third wife, Lois Driggs Cannon. Together, they have a combined family of six children. His battles against depression and alcoholism have been most recently documented in Magnificent Desolation.

In 2003, Aldrin received the Humanitarian Award from Variety, the Children’s Charity. In 2006, the Space Foundation awarded Aldrin the General James E. Hill Lifetime Space Achievement Award, which recognized him as an individual who distinguished himself through his lifetime contributions to the welfare or betterment of humankind through the exploration, development and use of space, and the use of space technology, information, themes or resources in academic, cultural, industrial or other pursuits of broad benefit to humanity. In 2007, Aldrin was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2007.