Buzz Aldrin is the astronaut who joined Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 in 1969—and one of the first human beings to walk on the moon.
But how do you start in Montclair, New Jersey, and end up standing on the moon? Here are 10 interesting facts about Buzz Aldrin’s life—and his famous missions out of this world.
Buzz Aldrin: 10 Astronomically Interesting Facts about the Legendary Astronaut
1. His mother’s maiden name was Moon.
Buzz Aldrin was born on January 20, 1930 in Montclair, New Jersey. His parents—Marion Moon and Edwin Eugene Aldrin—named him Edwin. Edwin got his nickname from his little sister, who couldn’t pronounce the word “brother.” Instead, she called him “buzzer.” His parents shortened the name to “Buzz.” In 1988, Aldrin officially changed his name to Buzz, an interesting fact about Buzz Aldrin.
Aldrin followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the West Point Military Academy after high school graduation. In later years he said he enjoyed the discipline and routine of the military, and he graduated third in his class in 1951.
2. He was offered a full ride at MIT.
Aldrin knew what he wanted. Before he headed to West Point to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a military man, he won a full scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He turned down the offer in favor of military school.
Over a decade later, Buzz would get another opportunity to attend MIT. In 1963, he graduated from the world-renowned university with a PhD. in Astronautics.
3. He had an awkward landing.
Not that landing. When he was reboarding the lander on the moon, he didn’t push with enough force. He crashed into the ladder with his shins. In the famous photo of him standing on the moon, you can see the two black marks on his shins from where he hit the ladder, a funny fact about Buzz Aldrin.
4. He took the unbelievable selfie.
One of the most famous photos in the world is Buzz Aldrin with Earth in the background. He took the photo of himself and his home planet in 1966, during a spacewalk on the Gemini 12 mission.
As far as selfies go, this one is pretty unbeatable, especially when you think that this astronautic trend wouldn’t catch on for another 50 years.
5. He spent time outdoors in space—a lot of time.
Aldrin spent a great deal of time outside his space shuttle—almost 290 hours in total. Across NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs, Aldrin spent more than 12 days outside—in space—in the 60s.
6. He’s been on the Simpsons.
Buzz Aldrin has been on TV since the 60s for his ground-breaking achievement. He’s also starred on 30 Rock and The Simpsons—as himself. He even did a stint on Dancing With the Stars. It turns out that Aldrin may be able to fly fighter jets and spaceships, but he can’t really dance. In the 10th season of DWTS, he was the second contestant to be eliminated.
7. He punched a heckler.
To this day, there are conspiracy theorists who circulate the theory that the Moon landing was fake. For astronauts like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, this must be a major insult to the time and training the men invested in making the moonwalk a reality.
In 2002, Aldrin was harassed by a conspiracy theorist at a Beverly Hills hotel, whilst with his daughter. The man called Aldrin a “coward and a liar,” and so Aldrin punched him in the jaw. The confrontation was caught on camera, and gives Aldrin’s supporters great entertainment to this day, an interesting fact about Buzz Aldrin.
8. He wants to go to Mars.
More specifically, he wants us all to go to Mars. Aldrin has collaborated with writers to encourage millennials to be the first generation to visit the Red Planet. His first book, Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration, shared his vision for commercial space travel—a vision shared by Sir Richard Branson and Tesla’s Elon Musk.
He teamed up with Marianne Dyson to publish Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet in 2015. The book, Aldrin’s second, was published by National Geographic to inspire young people to strive to achieve this goal.
He has been a vocal advocate for colonizing Mars, believing that the journey itself will be easy. He is more focused on how we would colonize the Red Planet, and how we would sustain a life there.
In 2016, Buzz Aldrin joined an expedition to the South Pole, which is the most similar environment on Earth to Mars. He suffered from altitude sickness in Antarctica, and was evacuated.
9. He wanted to be the first man on the moon.
Although Aldrin’s name has gone down in history as one of the first men to set foot on the moon, he wanted the distinction that went to Neil Armstrong—officially the first man on the moon.
NASA protocol actually dictated that Aldrin should have been the first to leave the module, since the mission commander—Armstrong—was meant to stay inside to handle emergencies. NASA officials decided to send Armstrong first, however, and told Aldrin that it would come down to how the men were positioned inside the module, an interesting fact about Buzz Aldrin.
10. He almost didn’t become an astronaut.
After graduating from West Point military school, Aldrin became a Combat Pilot. He fought to defend our country, flying almost 70 combat missions in his F-86 Sabre jet. He also shot down to MiG fighter jets during the war.
His ultimate goal was to become an astronaut, though. Every step he took throughout his military career was with this goal in mind, an important fact about Buzz Aldrin.
Initially, his application to NASA was rejected. The space program required its astronauts to serve as test pilots—which Aldrin had not—and so he had to wait until that pre-requisite was removed from the criteria before he could join.
One of the most famous names in the history of planet Earth—and one of the first men to ever walk on the moon—has definitely lived an admirable life. He set a clear goal and worked hard to achieve it, and continues to work hard to further space travel for the new generations.
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