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Buzz Aldrin, Second Man on the Moon

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As I viewed last month’s Hunter’s Full Moon (Saturday, October 28th), I thought about moon landings. Did you know that there are only four men living today who can say that they set foot on the lunar surface? All 12 men have walked on the moon. Buzz Aldrin, at age 93, is the oldest remaining member of this elite group.

Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr. was born on January 20, 1930. He officially changed his first name to “Buzz” in the early 1980s. His sister gave him the nickname, mispronouncing brother so that it sounded more like buzzer.

In 1951, Aldrin graduated third in his class at West Point and enrolled in the Air Force. He was already familiar with military life. Aldrin’s father was an Air Force Colonel, and his mother was the daughter of an Army Chaplin.

Aldrin was a fighter pilot during the Korean War. He flew 66 combat missions, shot down two enemy fighters, and earned seven prestigious air medals.

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It is difficult to believe that NASA initially rejected Aldrin because he wasn’t a test pilot. However, requirements changed in his favor the very next year. The new rules stipulated 1,000 hours or more of flying time in jet aircraft to qualify for NASA. You didn’t have to be a test pilot after all! Aldrin easily had those hours and then some!

Aldrin was part of Astronaut Group 3 and was aboard the Gemini 12 mission in 1966. He made three spacewalks and spent five and a half hours outside the capsule, setting a new space record. He helped prove that human beings can function effectively in the weightlessness of outer space.

Next came the moon mission, Apollo 11. On July 20, 1969, Aldrin and Armstrong spent several hours on the lunar surface. Aldrin was the second man to step foot on the moon, just 19 minutes after Neil Armstrong. In a short period of time, the two astronauts gathered rock samples, took photos, and set up scientific equipment for tests. They worked equally, yet why is Aldrin in so many more photos? That’s an easy question; Armstrong always had the camera!

Buzz Aldrin stands before the U.S. flag erected on the landing site. [Photo credit: NASA]

Did you know that Aldrin had communion inside the spacecraft after it landed on the moon? This was kept very quiet at the time. The ceremony wasn’t broadcast, nor was much said about it afterward. Aldrin, an elder in his church, had gotten special permission to take bread and wine with him into space. He used the wait time before the moonwalk to have communion and reflect while Armstrong looked on.

Imagine all the hard work over the years! It took an army of talented people to get men to the moon! Aldrin asked for a moment of silence before taking communion and requested that each individual hearing his voice give thanks in their own way.
What about the first music heard on the moon? Buzz Aldrin brought it! He carried along a portable cassette player and had Frank Sinatra’s version of “Fly Me to the Moon” cued to play. The song began just as he stepped foot on the lunar surface.

After landing back on Earth, Aldrin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and retired from space flight in July 1971 at the age of 41.

However, he seems to have remained busier than ever. Since “retirement,” Buzz Aldrin has designed rockets and developed a spacecraft trajectory. He’s shown special interest and input in our quest toward Mars and further exploration of the red planet.

Aldrin has also traveled extensively. He’s been two and a half miles below the ocean to see the wreck of the Titanic. He’s explored the vast North Pole and has future plans to visit the South Pole. Many others know Aldrin as an accomplished author with six books to his credit. And he’s an active public speaker.

Aldrin has also been candid regarding his personal life. His biographies “Return to Earth” (1973) and “Magnificent Desolation” (2009) deal with his bouts of clinical depression and alcoholism. In 2007, he admitted to having a facelift to correct sagging jowls; supposedly, they were a result of his time in space. He’s been divorced three times.

Two adult children and a business manager, who all thought Aldrin was mentally ill, took him to court in 2018. The case and his countersuit were later dropped in March of 2019, shortly before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 first moon landing.

On his 93rd birthday, Aldrin married his fourth wife, Anca Faur, thirty years his junior. They reside in California and spend additional time in Satellite Beach, Florida.

Buzz Aldrin is a part of our pop culture. He was the inspiration for the character of Buzz Lightyear in the Disney movie “Toy Story.” He was also the idea behind MTV’s Video Music Award statuette. The silver astronaut holding a US flag was copied from one of his famous moon poses.

He’s made several appearances on television, including 2010’s Dancing With the Stars. But he’s not just another light-hearted celebrity or retired member of NASA. Aldrin is the first astronaut with a doctoral degree. He’s known by colleagues as Dr. Rendezvous because of his doctoral thesis, “Line of Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous.”

Aldrin has had quite a life and career for someone who didn’t get into NASA the first time around. He’s accepted being #2. He’s gotten used to introductions and questions about his role as the “second man on the moon” most of his life. He’s spent 12 days, 1 hour, and 53 minutes in space and has made every moment of that count. And he’s not wasted a second since then. Not bad at all for a son whose mom’s maiden name was Marion Moon!

Aldrin made this footprint on an untouched area so he could photograph it for study by soil-mechanics experts. [Photo credit: NASA]

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