The second man to set foot on the Moon.
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin was the second person to walk on the Moon. He and Neil Armstrong landed on the Sea of Tranquility in the Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle, on July 20, 1969. Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface nineteen minutes after Armstrong.
Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr. was born in Montclair, New Jersey, on January 20, 1930. His father, Edwin Eugene Aldrin, was a student of rocket scientist Robert Goddard and an aide to air pioneer General Billy Mitchell. “Buzz” graduated from Montclair High School in 1947 and in 1951 received a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating third in his class. He then entered the Air Force; after completing pilot training in 1952, he flew 62 combat missions in Korea, shooting down two MiG-15s. In 1963, he received a Ph.D. in Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Aldrin also has honorary degrees from six colleges and universities.
Dr. Aldrin became an astronaut in the selection of the third group by NASA in October 1963. On November 11, 1966, he was aboard the Gemini XII spacecraft, a four-day, 59-orbit flight that successfully ended the Gemini program. James Lovell, Jr. commanded the mission. Aldrin completed three extravehicular activities (EVAs) totaling five and a half hours during Gemini XII. These were the first truly successful spacewalks, as all previous American and Russian EVAs had encountered problems. During Project Gemini, Aldrin became one of the key figures working on the problem of rendezvous of spacecraft in Earth or lunar orbit and docking them together for spaceflight. Without these skills, Apollo could not have been successfully completed.
Aldrin, with his educational credentials, was ideally qualified for this work, and his intellectual abilities ensured that he carried out these tasks with enthusiasm and skill. Systematically and laboriously, he worked to develop procedures and tools necessary to accomplish space rendezvous and docking. He was also a central figure in devising the methods necessary for other astronauts to carry out EVAs. That, too, was critical to the successful accomplishment of Apollo.
“Buzz” Aldrin was the Lunar Module pilot on the three-man Apollo 11 crew that blasted off for the Moon on July 16, 1969, fulfilling the mandate of President John F. Kennedy, to send Americans to the Moon and back safely before the end of the decade.
Aldrin and Spacecraft Commander Neil A. Armstrong landed on the Moon in the Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, and spent more than twenty-one hours at ‘Tranquility Base’. After collecting more than 47 pounds of lunar samples they returned to the orbiting Command Module Columbia, piloted by Michael Collins. Columbia and the three lunar explorers returned safely to Earth on July 24, 1969. In his two missions, Aldrin logged 289 hours and 53 minutes in space, of which 7 hours and 52 minutes were spent in EVAs.
In 1971 Edwin Aldrin resigned from the astronaut program and returned to active duty with the Air Force. He retired from the Air Force and his position as commander of the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California in March 1972, with the rank of colonel. Since then Aldrin has remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure a continued leading role for America in manned space exploration to advance his life-long commitment to venturing outward in space.
Colonel Aldrin has received numerous decorations and awards, including the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, and the Harmon International Trophy in 1967.
In 2002, Aldrin served as a presidential appointee on the Commission on the Future of the US Aerospace Industry, and in 2003 he was honored among the top contributors to flight at the Kitty Hawk First Flight Centennial celebration. He has authored an autobiography, Return to Earth, and written a book about the Apollo Program, Men from Earth. Dr. Aldrin is President of Starcraft Enterprise, Laguna Beach, California.
Aldrin said he got the nickname “Buzz” as a child when his little sister would call him “buzzer” instead of “brother”. He had his name legally changed from Edwin to Buzz in the early 1980s. Asteroid 6470 Aldrin and Aldrin Crater on the Moon are named in his honor.