Out Of This World Facts About Buzz Aldrin

A former astronaut and fighter pilot, Buzz Aldrin is best-known as being one of the first two humans to land on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. During his career as an astronaut, Aldrin made a total of three spacewalks as the pilot of the 1966 Gemini 12 mission and the pilot of the Apollo Lunar Module on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, making him one of the most celebrated astronauts of all time. However, there’s a lot more to Buzz Aldrin than just walking on the Moon. Take a look to see the man he really was, his other accomplishments, and what he’s up to today.

His Name Isn’t Actually Buzz

Identification badge
Mario De Biasi/Mondadori via Getty Images
Mario De Biasi/Mondadori via Getty Images

Although most people know him as “Buzz,” and his name even helped inspire the character of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story franchise, it isn’t his real name. Aldrin was born Edwin Eugene Aldrin on January 20, 1930. He was named after his father, a colonel in the US Air Force, and ironically enough, his mother’s maiden name was Moon.

While many might assume that his nickname came about during his career as a pilot, it was actually given to him by his sister who couldn’t pronounce “brother,” so she resorted to saying “buzzer.” He legally changed his name in 1988.

He’s A Firm Believer In Settling Mars

Buzz Aldrin with his book
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage
Tommaso Boddi/WireImage

Unsurprisingly, Aldrin is an advocate for sending people to Mars, and he even has an idea on how to do it. In 1985, he mentioned a Mars cycler, a spacecraft that would supposedly allow people to make the journey between Mars and Earth in only around five-and-a-half months.

However, he believes getting there will be the easy part and that colonizing will prove to be the real issue claiming, “we know how to get people there. It is being able to sustain yourself.” He notes that the generation born around the year 2000 will be the first to make the journey, and hopes to work as an adviser on the project.

He Took A Selfie On The Moon

Buzz Aldrin taking a picture
Space Frontiers/Getty Images
Space Frontiers/Getty Images

While selfies are no special thing today, they might be if they were taken on the Moon, which is precisely what Aldrin did. During a spacewalk as part of the Gemini 12 mission in 1966, Aldrin took a picture of himself with Earth in the background.

His cleverness inspired several astronauts to do the same who followed in his footsteps. Who knows, maybe in the future, taking a selfie with Earth in the background might be considered to be cliche.

He Got Physical With A Moon Landing Conspiracy Theorist

Aldrin at Berlin International Film Festival
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

In 2002, Aldrin had a physical altercation with Bart Sibrel, a conspiracy theorist who believes that the Moon landing was fake. At the Beverly Hills hotel, Sibrel approached Aldrin, asking him to swear on the Bible that he had walked on the Moon, also calling him a “coward and a liar.”

The situation turned violent, resulting in Aldrin punching Sibrel in the jaw, which was even caught on camera. Aldrin claimed that he was defending himself and his stepdaughter, and the charges were dropped after it was concluded that Aldrin had been provoked.

He Took Communion On The Moon

Aldrin posing in his suit
Bettmann/Corbis/Getty Images
Bettmann/Corbis/Getty Images

Although Aldrin wasn’t the first man to walk on the Moon, he was the first and only person to take communion on it. At the time of the Moon landing, Aldrin was a church elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, and his pastor agreed to bless bread and wine for Aldrin to take with him to the Moon.

Once on the Moon, Aldrin radioed NASA for everyone to “to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.” It was there that he privately took communion, a ceremony that was kept secret for some time.

Aldrin Convinced NASA To Forgo A Scheduled Nap

Aldrin at a panel
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Upon arriving on the Moon, the astronauts were scheduled to take a nap in order to be rested for the mission ahead.

However, in his autobiography, Aldrin comments that “We’d just landed on the moon and there was a lot of adrenaline still zinging through our bodies. Telling us to sleep was like telling kids on Christmas morning they had to stay in bed until noon!” So, Armstrong managed to convinced mission control to let them skip their nap.

He’s A Decorated Military Veteran

Aldrin during Veterans parade
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Graduating from West Point as one of the highest-ranking members of his class, Aldrin had his choice of assignments. In the end, he decided to enlist in the United States Air Force. He served during the Korean War as a fighter pilot and was involved in several combat missions throughout the war, with numerous aerial victories.

For his service in Korea, he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and three Air Medals. After the war, he continued in the military until eventually enrolling at MIT through the Air Force Institute of Technology where he eventually earned a Sc.D. degree in astronautics.

He Struggled After Leaving NASA

Aldrin with his wife
Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images
Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images

In the years following his retirement from NASA, Aldrin suffered from clinical depression that seriously affected his life. Following the recommendation of his therapist, he took up a regular job as a used car salesman, a job that he had little skill at.

He also started drinking heavily and eventually was arrested for disorderly conduct after breaking down his girlfriend’s door in a drunken rage. However, he quit alcohol for good in October 1978 and made an attempt to help other people in the limelight with their addiction as well.

He Didn’t Like People Using His Image

Armstrong in the Lunar Module
Neil Armstrong/Space Frontiers/Getty Images
Neil Armstrong/Space Frontiers/Getty Images

In numerous instances throughout his life, Aldrin made it clear that he did not condone people using his image, especially without his permission. At one point, he sued Omega Watches, the brand he wore during the moon landing, for using his image for advertising.

Once again, he also sued The Tops Company, Inc. for making and selling Buzz Aldrin trading cards without is permission. Believe it or not, after the film’s release, Aldrin admitted that he almost sued Disney for using his name as the character for Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.

He Helped Saved The Apollo 11 Mission

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images
Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had been on the Moon’s surface for three hours collecting rock samples. Climbing back into the Lunar Module to leave, Aldrin accidentally hit the circuit breaker switch with the backpack on his suit. The switch that was hit activated the aircraft’s ascent engine so the Lunar Module could reach the Columbia to take them home.

At this point, Aldrin and Armstrong didn’t think that circuit breaker would no longer get them off the ground, and briefly feared they had been stranded. Already having disposed of most of their tools, Aldrin used a pen to activate the circuit breaker and trigger the ignition.

Aldrin Was Supposed To Be The First Man On The Moon

Aldrin walking in his space suit
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

Although Neil Armstrong was the first person to step on the Moon, it was actually supposed to be Buzz Aldrin. With Neil Armstong as the commander, the protocol called for Armstrong to stay inside of the Lunar Module in case of an emergency while Aldrin exited the module first.

However, the higher-ups at NASA decided that Armstong should be first, and told Aldrin the only reason was because how the two were positioned inside of the module.

He Saw A UFO, Not An Alien

Aldrin with a camera
SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images

In the 2005 Science Channel documentary, First on the Moon: The Untold Story, Aldrin told the interviewer that he had seen an unidentified flying object (UFO). However, the documentary left out the part that he had most likely seen one of the four detached spacecraft adapter panels from the Saturn V rocket.

When Aldrin was featured on The Howard Stern Show in 2007, Aldrin clarified that his words had been taken out of context and that he was “99.9 percent” sure the object was the detached panel. Although he asked the History Channel to make a revision, his request was denied.

He Has Explored More Than Just Space

Aldrin at a film screening
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for THINKFilm
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for THINKFilm

Although Buzz Aldrin is best known for his space exploration, he was interested in what was on Earth as well. In December 2016, Aldrin joined a tourist group visiting the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica.

Unfortunately, due to altitude sickness, Aldrin was forced to be evacuated to McMurdo Station and from there to Christchurch, New Zealand. At the age of 86, he became the oldest person to have ever reached the South Pole. Furthermore, in 1998, he also visited the North Pole.

He Was Known As “Dr. Rendezvous”

Portrait of Buzz Aldrin
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

While earning his Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics, his thesis was the subject of “Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous,” which was the study of bringing piloted spacecraft into contact with each other.

His thesis would prove to be useful and helped him gain entry into the space program. After graduating, Aldrin became the first astronaut with a doctorate, and his thesis earned him the nickname “Dr. Rendezvous,” and was put in charge of creating the docking and rendezvous techniques for spacecraft.

He Broke A Record In Space

Black and white photo of Buzz Aldrin
Ron Burton/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
Ron Burton/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

In 1966, Buzz Aldrin and fellow astronaut Jim Lovell were assigned to the Gemini 12 crew. Then, during their November 11 to November 15 space flight, Aldrin completed a 5-hour spacewalk, the longest that had ever been done at the time.

During that time, he used his knowledge about rendezvousing space shuttles to manually recalculate all of the docking maneuvers on the ship after the on-board radar had failed. Luckily for the astronauts, everything went smoothly.

He Received Numerous Awards For His Time On The Moon

Apollo 11 crew
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

After returning safely from the Apollo 11 mission, Aldrin, as well as the other crew members received numerous accolades for their bravery and success. Aldrin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was proceeded by a 45-day international tour.

In addition, the Asteroid “6470 Aldrin” and the “Aldrin Crater” on the Moon were named after him. Aldrin, Collins, and Armstrong also received the Congressional Gold medals in 2011 and were all given stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He Founded A Nonprofit

Aldrin with toy
Steve Granitz/WireImage
Steve Granitz/WireImage

In 1998, Aldrin founded the nonprofit ShareSpace Foundation to promote commercial space travel, education, and exploration. However, in 2014, he changed the direction of the nonprofit to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Education with the purpose of inspiring children from kindergarten to eighth grade to become interested in space.

For the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing, Aldrin collaborated with Snoop Dogg, Quincey Jones, Talib Kwell, and Soulja Boy to create a rap single and music video with all proceeds going to ShareSpace.

His Favorite Food In Space Is A Shrimp Cocktail

Aldrin Saluting
Harmony Gerber/Getty Images
Harmony Gerber/Getty Images

When in space, astronauts do not get the luxury of the variety of foods that we have on Earth, and the food that they do eat even tastes different. However, Aldrin has stated that his favorite food to eat in space was a shrimp cocktail. He noted that “We had very small shrimp that had a little bit of cocktail sauce, and when exposed to water, were very very tasty.”

However, one of the main reasons he enjoyed this snack was because the horsetrading sauce helped to relieve congestion. In space, fluids rise to the upper part of the body, resulting in constant congestion, so this snack provided some relief.

He’s Written Numerous Books

Aldrin talking about his new book
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Over the course of his life, Aldrin wrote two autobiographies. The first was in 1973 titled Return to Earth, which described the depression he experienced after the Apollo 11 mission. The second was released in 2009 with the help of Ken Abraham titled Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon.

He also released Men from Earth in 1989 with Malcolm McConnell, which was a history of the Apollo program, as well as two children’s books, Reaching for the Moon and Look to the Stars. Finally, he wrote two other books in 2013 and 2016 titles Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration and No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon.

He Filed A Lawsuit Against His Children

Aldrin being honored
Harmony Gerber/Getty Images
Harmony Gerber/Getty Images

In 2018, Aldrin filed a lawsuit against his two children Andrew and Janice as well as his business manager Christina Korp against their claims that he was suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

His children claimed that Aldrin had become involved with a group of people that were isolating him from his family and urging him to spend his savings at an increasing rate. So, they attempted to become legal guardians so that they could take control of his finances. The situation ended when his children withdrew the petition and he dropped the lawsuit in March 2019.