“Whenever I gaze up at the moon, I feel like I'm on a time machine. I am back to that precious pinpoint of time, standing on the foreboding—yet beautiful—Sea of Tranquility. I could see our shining blue planet Earth poised in the darkness of space.”—Buzz Aldrin.
Buzz Aldrin achieved almost as much as a human being could during the 20th century. He may not have been the very first person to step onto the Moon, but he was as important to the mission as Neil Armstrong and has been cherished by the world’s community ever since. Leading a structured life with the goal of being an astronaut in mind, Aldrin always kept his eyes on his goal and never gave up. Accordingly, he has lived a fascinating life worth looking at and taking inspiration from. Here are 42 uplifting facts about Buzz Aldrin.
42. Call It Destiny
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin was born to Edwin Eugene Aldrin Sr. and Marion Aldrin (née Moon). Yes, that’s right, Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name was Moon. Some call it coincidence and some call it destiny, and some would argue that they’re the same thing.
41. Out in Space
Overall, between both the Gemini and Apollo NASA programs, Aldrin spent a seriously impressive 289 hours and 53 minutes outside in space. That is a little over 12 days in total, all in the early ‘60s.
40. The Nickname
Many people associate the word buzz with a very short haircut, however, this is not the reason why Aldrin went by “Buzz.” The nickname actually comes from his sister, who was unable to pronounce “brother” properly, and instead called him “buzzer.” Like most nicknames, once it stuck, it stuck for good.
39. New Name
Aldrin accepted his nickname in stride and didn’t mind it. In fact, he even legally changed his real name to Buzz in 1988.
38. Tough Choice
Aldrin was a man who knew what he wanted, and he wanted to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. Luckily for him, he was accepted and began his training there in 1947, but it was at the expense of another opportunity that most people dream of having: a full scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
37. Second Chance
Though Aldrin turned down his chance to take a free ride at M.I.T., he would get another shot at studying at the prestigious school. In 1963, he graduated from M.I.T. with a PhD in astronautics. Not bad Buzz, not bad at all.
36. Botching the Jump
In the famous photo of Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon before reentering the lunar module, there are clear, thick black marks under his knees. These marks were the result of him trying to reboard the lander and failing. When attempting his jump back aboard, he didn’t push with enough force and ended up crashing his shins into the ladder.
35.Peeing in Space
Not everyone could be the first at everything, to state the utterly obvious, but everyone can be the first at something, and Buzz has his: he was the first human to urinate on the moon.
34. Or Not…
While he may have been the first to take a lunar leak, it’s not like he undid a zipper fly on his suit for it. He actually peed inside of a special bag in his space suit while standing on the moon. So, yes, he was the first to pee while standing on the moon, not the first to pee on the actual moon.
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33. Bringing Religion to the Moon
Aldrin was also able to get some more first distinctions on the Moon. Though the mission was in representation of all humanity, Aldrin held communion for himself while on the moon, thus becoming the first person to perform a religious ceremony on the moon.
32. Careful Reflection
However, years later, Aldrin said that if he were to do it over again, he would think twice about performing the religious act, stating that the moon mission was for everyone on Earth, regardless of religion.
31. First Eater
Because he held communion, Aldrin also became the first person to consume food and drink on the Moon. This food was a bit of wine and bread while he spoke the first Bible verse.
30. Secret Communion
Though most of the world was able to (unwittingly) watch Buzz Aldrin urinate on the Moon, they were unable to see him perform communion as it was not broadcast. In fact, this ceremony was kept secret by the government for many years, due to a previous lawsuit in objection to performing religious readings on NASA mission.
29. Struggling with the Fame
After officially retiring from NASA in 1971 and then the Air Force—where he was a colonel—in 1972, Aldrin struggled with the fame that came with his mission to the moon. He spent many years depressed and dependent on alcohol until getting sober in 1978, after he broke down his girlfriend’s door in a drunken rage.
28. Buzz, the Car Salesman
During his bout with depression in the ‘70s, Aldrin needed to find a new job. Eventually, he found himself selling cars in Beverly Hills, though he was quite unsuccessful and never actually sold a single car.
27. Don’t Sell His Image
Aldrin does not take kindly to companies using his image for commercial purposes. He has sued Omega watches, the brand he wore during the moon landing, for using his image without permission, as well as Topps trading cards for selling Buzz Aldrin trading cards. After the release of Toy Story, Aldrin admitted to considering suing Disney, but eventually decided against it. Thanks for that, Buzz.
26. NASA’s Tab
Buzz Aldrin is a man who dots his i’s, crosses his t’s, and keeps his paper trail. NASA learned this after he returned back from the Apollo 11 mission when he submitted an expense report to the government agency. This expense claim was for the travel excursion he took during the journey, from Houston, Texas all the way to the moon, and was for an amount of $33.31.
25. No Need to Fret
There was a small hiccup after the astronauts had explored the moon. When they returned to the module ready to begin their ride back home, they found a broken circuit breaker, from the ascent engine, laying on the floor of the module. Now, the ascent engine was one of the most important components of the module for lifting it off of the moon, and after they radioed ground control for a solution, they were told to wait overnight for a response. This meant the crew was faced with the possibility of being grounded on the moon indefinitely.
So, what does Buzz Aldrin do? He didn’t let this scare him off, and laid down and went to sleep.
After getting some shut-eye, Buzz decided to take the matter into his own hands. The switch that was broken left them without a way to ignite the engine, so Buzz, realizing his fingers were too large, created a make-shift circuit breaker switch by simply jamming his pen into the mechanism. This successfully primed the module for takeoff, and the mission was back underway. To this day, Buzz still has the very same pen he used to ignite the module back towards earth at his home.
23. It’s Like Car Insurance, Except 1000x Worse
Launching yourself into space comes with some serious risks. Now, imagine you are attempting to be the first humans to fly into space, yet you have no life insurance policy to cover your family in case things go wrong.
That was the case for all three astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission, as both Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong were also unable to afford the insurance policy required for an astronaut.
22. Plan B
Because of the lack of a plan for their families should something happen on the mission, Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins came up with a plan. While they were in pre-launch quarantine, they took matters into their own hands and decided to sign hundreds of autographs, which they then sent to a friend who would be responsible for distributing the memorabilia to their families in the case of tragedy.
21. Favorite Space Food
As one can imagine, it may be difficult to have a delicious meal up in space, especially on the first go around. Buzz Aldrin’s favorite food was shrimp cocktail—dehydrated, of course. As Aldrin wrote, “We had very small shrimp that had a little bit of cocktail sauce, and when exposed to water, were very very tasty."
20. Cocktail Relief
Taste is a bit skewed in space, so the reason for the apparent shrimp cocktail taste sensation can be explained by the horseradish inside the cocktail sauce. While in space, fluids shift toward to upper body, resulting in a feeling of sinus congestion for the astronauts. So, even though the shrimp cocktail may not have been great, it was able to open up the sinuses, lending the astronauts a sense of relief during dinner.
19. Getting It Right
According to Aldrin, the best film to achieve accuracy in its depiction of being in space was the Alfonso Cuarón movie Gravity. The movie was even able to make the level-headed astronaut cringe, as its level of accuracy forced him to imagine what such a disaster would feel like.
18. Magnificent Desolation
“Magnificent Desolation” is the way that Buzz Aldrin once described his impression of being on the moon. I’ll let him take it away:
"There is no place on Earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the lunar surface...What I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years...Beyond me I could see the moon curving away—no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up."
The phrase is also the title of his autobiography, published in 2009.
17. Who Pooped?
Recently released confidential transcript records show that there was once a debate on board the Apollo 11 mission about whose feces was floating around. Of course, they all denied it.
16. Fighter Pilot
Aldrin served as a Combat Pilot after graduating from West Point during the Korean War. The future astronaut was a successful pilot, flying 66 combat missions in an F-86 Sabre jet, and shooting down two different MiG-15 fighter jets during his time in the air.
Buzz Aldrin tailored his career after the Korean War with a goal towards becoming an astronaut for NASA. This effort was not without its trials and tribulations, however, as Aldrin was initially rejected from NASA because he had not served as a test pilot, which was a requirement at the time. He had to wait for that requirement to be erased before he was accepted into the program.
14. First Time
The first NASA mission Aldrin was on was Gemini 9A, though it was not a trip into space. His first time in space wouldn’t come until Gemini 12, when he was chosen to pilot the shuttle out of the Earth’s atmosphere. On this mission, Aldrin showed his fortitude by setting a NASA record for time in space, at over 5 hours.
13. Bad Positioning
Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon, but Buzz Aldrin wanted the distinction for himself. The protocol of the time actually called for Aldrin to be the first one to step onto the moon, as the mission commander was supposed to stay inside the module in case of emergency. However, the higher-ups at NASA realized that Armstrong’s ego would be able to take the honor much better, and so they decreed that he be the first, telling Aldrin that it was a matter of the way both astronauts were positioned inside the lunar module.
12. Freemason Buzz
With membership in lodges in both New Jersey and Texas, Aldrin is an active Freemason. Though, this is nothing too surprising, as many high ranking military officials are Freemasons. So relax, you conspiracy theorists.
11. No Aliens
There has been an urban legend floating around the internet for years that Aldrin claimed to have seen a UFO during the Apollo 11 mission. This, however, has been proved false because his words were taken out of context. What he did claim to see was an object, likely an adapter panel detaching from the craft, pass by him during the mission. UFO? Well, yes. Aliens? Nope.
10. Thesis Topic
Aldrin’s doctoral dissertation from M.I.T. was titled “Line-of-Sight Guidance Techniques for Manned Orbital Rendezvous” and was about piloting two spacecraft together for a meeting while in orbit.
9. Buzz 2.0
Because of his dissertation topic and attendant expertise in said subject, the other astronauts gave Aldrin another nickname: Dr. Rendezvous.
8. Doctor Astronaut
Aldrin was selected as part of the third group of astronauts ever assembled by NASA. He was the first astronaut to have a PhD.
7. Sick in the South Pole
In 2016, Buzz Aldrin was in Antarctica on an expedition to the South Pole, which has the most similar conditions to Mars of anywhere on planet Earth. Unfortunately, Aldrin had to be evacuated after suffering from altitude sickness.
6. Mission to Mars
Buzz wants to go to Mars. Well, not him personally, but he is an advocate for human settlement on Mars. He doesn’t believe the journey to be the difficult part, but rather the settlement, as figuring out how to sustain life on the red planet is the challenge.
5. Children to Mars
Believing that the generation of people born after the year 2000 will be the first to explore Mars, Aldrin has even collaborated on a children’s book in an effort to encourage and inspire the youth. Written with Marianne Dyson and published by National Geographic in 2015, the book is titled Welcome to Mars: Making a Home on the Red Planet. This came after his 2013 book encouraging commercial space travel, Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration.
4. Clooney Compliments
It would be an understatement to say that many people look up to the great American astronaut, but he once got quite the compliment from George Clooney, of all people. After meeting his childhood hero Buzz Aldrin in 2017, Clooney said that he could never do what Aldrin did, as the Apollo 11 craft was like a “1950s Chevy.”
3. Pulling No Punches
One of the most famous and widely circulated conspiracy theories was that the Moon landing was faked. This is not something that Mr. Buzz Aldrin takes lightly. In 2002, he was confronted by the conspiracy theorist Bart Sibrel at a hotel in Beverly Hills, and after being provoked by being called “a coward and a liar,” he hit Sibrel with a mean right hook to the jaw in defense of him and his step-daughter. The altercation was caught on camera and is quite the watch.
The man responsible for the first selfie in space is none other than Buzz Aldrin. The photo was taken in 1966, during a spacewalk on the mission Gemini 12, and is of him with Earth in the background. This has become one of the most famous photos in history, and it is hard to take a more impressive photo—take note, selfie-takers.
1. Buzz’s Dancing Shoes
Over the years, Buzz Aldrin has been no stranger to television and has appeared on sitcoms, always as himself, such as 30 Rock, The Simpsons, in advertisements, and even on Dancing With the Stars. Though he can fly, Aldrin can’t dance, and he was the second contestant eliminated in the 10th season of the celebrity dancing competition.