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Buzz Aldrin at Apollo 11, 11 July 1969

Buzz Aldrin at Apollo 11, 11 July 1969 (Space)

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Buzz Aldrin (born Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr., Jan. 20, 1930 (89 years ago)) 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 Jul. 20, 1969 (50 years ago), he was the second person to set foot on the Moon, following his mission commander, Neil Armstrong.

Biography

Aldrin was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, 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 School in 1946 (73 years ago), Aldrin turned down a full scholarship offer from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and instead went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. 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 (31 years ago).

NASA career

Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of NASA astronauts in Oct. 1963 (56 years ago). 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.

On Jul. 20, 1969 (50 years ago), he was the second astronaut to walk on the moon. 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, 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 Jul. 20.

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 (31 years ago). 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 Memphis, Tennessee, and receives between $30,000-$50,000 per appearance.


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