Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr.; January 20, 1930) is an American , former , and in the . As Pilot on the mission, he and mission commander were the first two humans to . Aldrin set foot on the at 03:15:16 on July 21, 1969 (), 9 minutes after Armstrong first touched the surface. One of his first missions was on where he successfully proved that (EVA) could be performed by astronauts, spending over 5 hours outside the craft, thus achieving the goals of the Gemini program and paving the way for the program.


Early life

Aldrin was born January 20, 1930, in , in , . His parents were Edwin Eugene Aldrin Sr. (1896–1974), a career military man, and Marion Aldrin (née Moon, 1903–1968), who lived in neighboring . He is of ,, and ancestry. His nickname, which became his legal first name in 1988, arose as a result of the younger of his two elder sisters mispronouncing "brother" as "buzzer", which was shortened to Buzz. During his childhood years, Aldrin was a and earned the rank of .

Aldrin played football, and was the starting center for 's undefeated 1946 state champion team. He did well in school, maintaining an A average. After graduating in 1947, Aldrin went to the at .

Military career

Aldrin got a good start at West Point, finishing first in his class his plebe year. He graduated third in his class in 1951 with a degree in . He was commissioned as a in the and served as a jet during the . He flew 66 in and shot down two 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.

After the war, Aldrin was assigned as an instructor at in , and later served as an aide to the dean of faculty at the , which had begun operations in 1955. That same year, he graduated from the at in . He flew as a flight commander in the , while stationed at , West Germany.

Aldrin, under the auspices of the , began work as a graduate student at the (MIT) in 1959, intending to earn a master's degree. Aldrin enjoyed the classroom work, and soon decided to pursue a doctoral degree. In January 1963, he earned a degree in . His doctoral thesis was Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous, the dedication of which read, "In the hopes that this work may in some 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!" Aldrin chose his doctoral thesis on the basis that it would help him be selected as an astronaut.

NASA career

On the completion of his doctorate, Aldrin was assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division in . His initial application to join the astronaut corps was rejected on the basis he was never a test pilot. With the removal of experience as a prerequisite for astronaut selection, Aldrin became eligible and in October 1963, he became a member of 's . His selection made him the first astronaut with a Ph.D. This, combined with his expertise in orbital mechanics, gave him the nickname Dr. Rendezvous.

Gemini program

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Another view of Aldrin in space, with the spacecraft and Earth

Aldrin and were selected as the backup crew for Gemini 10, which lined them up for the prime crew of Gemini 13. With Gemini 12 scheduled as the last mission, this was a dead-end assignment. After the deaths of the original prime crew, and , Aldrin and were promoted to backup crew for the Gemini 9 mission. With normal crew rotation, this confirmed Aldrin's spot as a pilot on .

Gemini 12's main objectives were to perform an EVA, rendezvous with a target vehicle, and fly the two together using . While NASA had successfully performed rendezvous in the past, the gravity-gradient stabilization test on Gemini 11 was unsuccessful. NASA was also having problems with their EVAs. After 's near-disastrous EVA on Gemini 9, had a successful EVA on Gemini 10. However, had trouble on Gemini 11 while trying to use the astronaut maneuvering unit (AMU), so it fell to Aldrin to achieve Gemini's EVA goal. NASA formed a committee to give Aldrin a better chance of success. They removed the AMU test so Aldrin could focus on the EVA. NASA revamped the training program, opting for underwater training over parabolic flight. They also placed additional handholds on the capsule, and created workstations that Aldrin could anchor his feet into.

Aldrin and after the Gemini 12 mission

The launched about an hour and a half prior to Gemini 12. The mission's first major objective was to rendezvous with this target vehicle. As the target and Gemini 12 capsule drew closer together, radar contact between the two deteriorated until it became unusable. The crew would have to rendezvous manually. Aldrin used a sextant and rendezvous charts he helped create to give Lovell the right information to put the spacecraft in position to mate with the target vehicle. Lovell was unable to dock with the target, and Aldrin docked successfully a few minutes later.

Aldrin performed two EVAs; first a standup, and in the second he left the spacecraft. The standup EVA mimicked some of the actions he would do during his free-flight EVA, so he could compare the effort expended between the two. The standup EVA set a record of two hours and 20 minutes, and succeeded in accomplishing the work demonstration. The next day Aldrin performing his free-flight EVA. He climbed across the newly installed hand-holds to the GATV and installed the cable needed for the gravity-gradient stabilization experiment. Aldrin performed tasks like installing electrical connectors and testing tools needed later for Apollo. His second EVA concluded after two hours and six minutes. On November 15, the crew initiated the automatic reentry system and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. Later, after the mission, his wife realized he had fallen into a depression, something she had not seen before.

Apollo program

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Aldrin's first words on the Moon

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. Early versions of the EVA checklist had the Lunar Module Pilot as the first to step onto the lunar surface. However, when Aldrin learned that this might be amended, he lobbied within NASA for the original procedure to be followed. Multiple factors contributed to the final decision, including the physical positioning of the astronauts within the compact lunar lander, which made it easier for Armstrong to be the first to exit the spacecraft. Furthermore, there was little support for Aldrin's views among other senior astronauts who would command later Apollo missions, and who may have been the first to make a lunar landing had Apollo 11 failed. Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot has commented that he thought Aldrin "resents not being first on the moon more than he appreciates being second."

Aldrin and Armstrong did not have time to perform much geological training. The first lunar landing focused more on landing on the Moon and making is safely back to Earth than the scientific aspects of the mission. The duo were briefed by NASA and USGS geologists. They made one geological training expedition, to west Texas. The press followed them, and a helicopter made it hard for Aldrin and Armstrong to hear their instructor.

Apollo 11

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Aldrin walks on the surface of the Moon during Apollo 11 Aldrin's lunar footprint in a photo taken by him on July 21, 1969

On July 20, 1969, mission commander and Aldrin made the first lunar landing becoming the first and second people, respectively, to walk on the Moon. This mission allowed Aldrin to maintain his record EVA duration until it was surpassed in the mission. Aldrin's first words on the Moon were "Beautiful view", to which Armstrong asked "Isn't it magnificent?". Aldrin answered, "Magnificent desolation." He was also the first person to urinate while on the Moon.

Aldrin, a , 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 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 took on the surface of the Moon, but he kept it secret because of a lawsuit brought by atheist activist over the on . Aldrin, then a church , used a home communion kit given to him, and recited words used by his pastor at Webster Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Dean Woodruff. The communion elements were the first food and liquid consumed on the Moon: in , Aldrin stated: "It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the Moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements."

Later Aldrin commented on the event: "Perhaps, if I had it to do over again, I would not 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." Mindful of the controversy caused by the Bible readings made by the Apollo 8 crew, the NASA management had warned the Apollo 11 crew against making any explicit religious comments during the flight. However, in the final Apollo 11 TV broadcast during the return journey to Earth, Aldrin quoted from (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 is man that thou art mindful of him?'".


Aldrin as Commandant of the Air Force Test Pilot School

After leaving NASA in July 1971, Aldrin was assigned as Commandant of the at , . Aldrin did not have managerial or test pilot experience, which caused him to perform poorly in his new venture. Aldrin was hospitalized for depression with the year. 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 , published in June 2009, both recount his struggles with and in the years after his NASA career.[]

After retiring from NASA, Aldrin continued to advocate for space exploration. In 1985 he joined the (UND)'s College of Aerospace Sciences (now the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences) at the invitation of John D. Odegard, the dean of the college at time. Aldrin helped to develop UND's Space Studies program and brought Dr. David Webb from NASA to serve as the department's first chair. Later, he produced a computer strategy game called (1993). To further promote space exploration, and to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing, Aldrin teamed up with , , , and to create the rap single and video, "Rocket Experience", with proceeds from video and song sales to benefit Aldrin's non-profit foundation, .

He referred to the in a July 22, 2009, interview with : "We should go boldly where man has not gone before. Fly by the comets, visit asteroids, visit the moon of . 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."

In December 2016, Aldrin was part of a tourist group visiting the in when he fell ill and was evacuated, first to and from there to , New Zealand. At 86 years of age, Aldrin's visit made him the oldest person to ever reach the South Pole.

Aldrin cycler

In 1985, Aldrin proposed a special spacecraft now known as the . Aldrin's proposed system of cycling spacecraft makes travel to Mars possible using 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 continues to research this concept with engineers from Purdue University.

Bart Sibrel incident

On September 9, 2002, Aldrin was lured to a hotel on the pretext of being interviewed for a Japanese children's television show on the subject of space. When he arrived, proponent accosted him with a film crew and demanded he swear on a that the Moon landings were not faked, insisting that Aldrin and others had lied about walking on the Moon. After a brief confrontation, during which Sibrel kept following Aldrin despite being told to leave him alone, said to Aldrin: "You're the one who said you walked on the Moon when you didn't!" and finally called him "a coward and a liar", Aldrin punched Sibrel in the jaw, which was caught on camera by Sibrel's film crew. Aldrin stated that he had struck Sibrel in order to defend himself and his nearby stepdaughter. Witnesses stated that Sibrel had aggressively poked Aldrin with the Bible before being punched. Additional mitigating factors were that Sibrel sustained no visible injury and did not seek medical attention, and that Aldrin had no previous criminal record; the police declined to press charges against Aldrin. Aldrin dedicated a chapter to this incident in his autobiography Magnificent Desolation.

Detached adapter panel sighting

Aldrin at an event in April 2016.

In 2005, while being interviewed for a documentary titled First on the Moon: The Untold Story, Aldrin told an interviewer that they saw an . Aldrin told David Morrison, a senior scientist, the documentary cut the crew's conclusion that they probably saw one of the four detached spacecraft adapter panels. Their upper stage was 6,000 miles (9,700 km) away, but the four panels had been jettisoned before the S-IVB made its separation maneuver so they would closely follow the Apollo 11 spacecraft until its first mid-course correction. When Aldrin appeared on 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.

In an interview with the , Aldrin mentioned seeing unidentified objects, but according to Aldrin his words had been taken out of context. He made a request to the Science Channel to clarify to viewers that he did not see alien spacecraft but was refused.


Aldrin in Mission Control with NASA spokesman and Flight Director Ron Spencer in 2009

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

In December 2003, Aldrin published an opinion piece in criticizing NASA's objectives. In it, he voiced concern about NASA's development of a "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".

Support of a manned mission to Mars

In June 2013, Aldrin wrote an opinion piece, published in The New York Times, supporting a 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." In August 2015, Aldrin, in association with the , presented a "master plan" to NASA for consideration where astronauts, with a "tour of duty of ten years", establish a colony on Mars before the year 2040.

Awards and honors

Aldrin was awarded the in 1969 for his role as lunar module pilot on Apollo 11. He was awarded an in 1972 in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal for his role in both the Korean War and in the space program. He was also awarded the for his role in the Gemini and Apollo programs.

Aldrin was an inductee of the (1982), (1993),, the (2000), and the (2008).

During a 1966 ceremony marking the end of the Gemini program, Aldrin was awarded the by President Johnson at LBJ Ranch.

In August of 1969, President Nixon presented Aldrin and the rest of the Apollo 11 crew with the at a state dinner held in their honor. The Apollo 11 crew was awarded the New Frontier Congressional Gold Medal in the Capitol Rotunda in 2011. During the ceremony, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said, "Those of us who have had the privilege to fly in space followed the trail they forged."

The Apollo 11 trio were awarded the in 1969. The National Aeronautic Association president awarded a duplicate trophy to Collins and Aldrin at a ceremony. The National Space Club named the crew the winners of the 1970 , awarded annually for the greatest achievement in spaceflight. They received the international for aviators in 1970, conferred to them by Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1971. Agnew also presented them the of the National Geographic Society in 1970. He told them, "You've won a place alongside Christopher Columbus in American history". In 1970, the Apollo 11 team were co-winners of the award from the along with who broke the world speed record for piston engine airplanes

  • with cluster
  • with two clusters
  • Aldrin and his Apollo 11 crewmates were the 1999 recipients of the from the .
  • In 2001, appointed Aldrin to the .
  • Aldrin received the 2003 Humanitarian Award from , which, according to the organization, "is given to an individual who has shown unusual understanding, empathy, and devotion to mankind."
  • In 2006, the awarded Aldrin its highest honor, the General Lifetime Space Achievement Award.

Aldrin received honorary degrees from six colleges and universities. Aldrin was named as the Chancellor of the in 2015. For contributions to the television industry, Aldrin was honored with a star on the . Aldrin is on the 's Board of Governors, and has served as the organization's Chairman. In 2016, Aldrin's hometown middle school in Montclair, New Jersey was renamed the Buzz Aldrin Middle School. The on the Moon near the Apollo 11 landing site and Asteroid 6470 Aldrin are named in his honor.

Personal life

Aldrin has been married three times. His first marriage was to Joan Archer (1954–1974), mother to his three children (James, Janice and Andrew). His second marriage was to Beverly Van Zile (1975–1978), and his third to Lois Driggs Cannon (1988–2011), from whom he filed for divorce on June 15, 2011, in Los Angeles, citing "". The divorce was finalized on December 28, 2012. He has one grandson, Jeffrey Schuss, born to his daughter, Janice, and three great-grandsons.

His mother committed suicide in 1968, the year before the Moon mission. Her father had also committed suicide, and he believes he inherited depression from them.

His battles against depression and alcoholism, upon returning home from the Apollo 11 mission, have been well documented, most recently in Magnificent Desolation. Aldrin is an active supporter of the , headlining fundraisers for GOP members of .

In 2007, Aldrin confirmed to Time magazine that he had recently had a ; he joked that the he was exposed to in space "caused a sagging jowl that needed some attention."

Aldrin commented on the death of his Apollo 11 colleague, Neil Armstrong, saying that he was "deeply saddened by the passing. I know I am 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 50th Anniversary of our moon landing.... Regrettably, this is not to be."

Aldrin primarily resided in , California and its environs, including and , from 1972 to 2014. Following his third divorce, he sold his condominium (initially purchased in 1998) for .87 million in 2014. As of 2016, Aldrin was living in .

In 2018 he was involved in a lawsuit over a dispute with his children Andrew and Janice and former business manager Christina Korp over their claims that he was mentally impaired through and .

Film and television


Portrayed by others

Aldrin has been portrayed by:


  • Aldrin, Col. Edwin E. Jr. 1970. . Edison Electric Institute Bulletin. Vol. 38, No. 7, pp. 266–272.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and Wayne Warga. 1973. Return to Earth. New York, Random House.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and Malcolm McConnell. 1989. Men from Earth. New York: Bantam Books.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and John Barnes. 1996. Encounter with Tiber. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and John Barnes. 2000. The Return. New York: Forge.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and Wendell Minor. 2005. Reaching for the Moon. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and Ken Abraham. 2009. Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon. New York: Harmony Books.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and Wendell Minor. 2009. Look to the Stars. Camberwell, Vic.: Puffin Books.
  • Armstrong, Neil; Michael Collins; Edwin E. Aldrin; Gene Farmer; and Dora Jane Hamblin. 1970. First on the Moon: A Voyage with Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. Boston: Little, Brown.
  • Aldrin, Buzz. 2013. Mission to Mars. Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society.
  • Aldrin, Buzz and Marianne Dyson. 2015. Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Children's Books.

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External links