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Aldrin, Buzz | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Aldrin, Buzz
Variant Name: Aldrin, Edwin E., Jr.

Historical Note:

Edwin Eugene (Buzz) Aldrin was born on January 20, 1930, in Montclair, New Jersey. He was nicknamed "Buzz" by his sister. His mother, Marion Moon, was the daughter of an army chaplain. His father, Air Force Colonel Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Sr., was a former student of rocket scientist Robert Goddard, and an aviation pioneer in his own right.

Aldrin graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1951, ranking third in his graduating class. After graduation, Aldrin was as an officer in the Air Force. A year later he was sent to Korea as a fighter pilot. He completed 66 fighter missions during the Korean War, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. He then served as an Air Force instructor in Nevada before being assigned to the Air Force Academy as an aide and later a flight instructor. In 1956, he became a flight commander for a squadron in West Germany.

In 1959, Aldrin decided he needed a new career challenge and became interested in the developing U.S. space program. He enrolled in an engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated in 1963 with a Doctor of Science degree in Orbital Mechanics; his thesis dealt with the piloting and rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit. After he completed a series of strenuous mental and physical fitness tests, Aldrin was selected to be in NASA's third group of astronauts in October of 1963. Aldrin was the first astronaut to hold a doctoral degree and the only astronaut who was not a test pilot. Aldrin's first space mission was Gemini 12, which was with Jim Lovell, Jr. in November of 1966. During this flight, Aldrin established a new record for extra vehicular activity. In other words, his spacewalk proved that astronauts could work outside an orbiting vehicle to make repairs, a necessary ability if lunar flight was to become reality.

Following completion of the Gemini missions, the race was on between the United States and Russia to see who would reach the moon first. Aldrin completed many more hours of training to prepare for his role in different Apollo spaceflights. During his months in training, Aldrin created ways to improve various operational techniques, such as those used with navigational star displays. It was a combination of his temperament and skill that led to his being named Back-up Command Module pilot for Apollo 8 (December 21, 1968) the United States first attempt to orbit a manned lunar spacecraft. Then, in 1969, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Aldrin were chosen as the Apollo 11 crew. The United States was ready to launch a lunar landing flight.

On July 20th, 1969, at 4:17 p.m., the Eagle landed on the Moon. Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed. Aldrin radioed. He continued, We opened the hatch and Neil, with me as his navigator, began backing out of the tiny opening. It seemed like a small eternity before I heard Neil say, That's one small step for man ... one giant leap for mankind. In less than fifteen minutes I was backing awkwardly out of the hatch and onto the surface to join Neil, who, in the tradition of all tourists, had his camera ready to photograph my arrival. I felt buoyant and full of goose pimples when I stepped down on the surface.

On July 24th, eight days after launch, Columbia reenters the earth's atmosphere, and the journey of Apollo 11 ends with splashdown. After being recovered from the ocean, the astronauts, the equipment, and the lunar rocks were placed in isolation for 17 days. After the successful moon landing, the astronauts reluctantly embarked on a good will tour for NASA. They were also asked to write a book about their experiences. The result was First on the Moon, published in 1970. The Air Force also promoted Aldrin to Commander of the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. Unhappy with his new assignments, Aldrin resigned from NASA in 1971. Shortly afterwards, having undergone treatment for depression, he retired from the Air Force.

In 1972, Aldrin founded his own company, now known as Starcraft Enterprises. He sees his commercial relationships as an important link in the promotion of space tourism and the colonization of Mars. During an interview with USA Weekend, Aldrin expressed his belief that low-Earth orbiting tourism is going to be what allows NASA to get funding for vehicles for exploration. In 1974, Aldrin wrote his autobiography, Return to Earth. In 1989, he and Malcolm McConnell co-authored Men From Earth, which describes Aldrin's trip to the Moon. He has also served as chairman of the National Space Society's Board of Directors, and has been awarded 50 distinguished medals and citations from nations all over the world, including the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom. Since 2000, Aldrin has frequently stated his belief that, with support from the U.S. government, within 12 to 15 years the common man will be able to experience space as he did in 1969.


"Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr., Dr." Encyclopedia of World Biography Supplement, Vol. 18. Gale Research, 1998.

Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC

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