Buzz Aldrin: To the moon and beyond

July 17th, 2009 - 1:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 17 (DPA) Even after his trip to the moon, Buzz Aldrin has led a pretty exciting life.
A scientist, engineer, space exploration historian and science-fiction writer, Aldrin guest-starred as himself on “The Simpsons” in 1994, and recorded a rap song with Snoop Dogg and Quincy Jones earlier this year.

Aldrin became the second man to walk on the moon’s surface July 20, 1969, just after his mission commander, Neil Armstrong, had taken the historic first step.

Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr was born in New Jersey in 1930, and earned his famous nickname as a child when his younger sister mispronounced “brother” as “buzzer”. He made “Buzz” his legal first name in 1988.

Aldrin graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1951 and joined the US Air Force, flying 66 combat missions during the Korean War.

Aldrin got his doctorate in astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963 and was selected to be a NASA astronaut later that year.

He helped develop docking techniques for orbiting spacecraft that are still used today, and in 1966 he performed the world’s first successful spacewalk.

Some credit Aldrin with the very first words spoken on the lunar surface. His statement, “Contact light … okay, engine stop” was beamed into homes all over the world moments before Armstrong’s famous declaration, “The Eagle has landed”.

Aldrin, along with fellow Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong and Michael Collins, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Richard Nixon in 1969.

In his recent autobiography, Aldrin writes that after he retired from active duty in 1972 he struggled with alcoholism and depression for several years, finally checking himself into rehab in 1975.

Aldrin continues to advocate human space exploration and devised a plan for missions to Mars in 1985. He said in a recent interview that NASA explorers could learn more from going to Mars than from going back to the moon. He also owns three patents for rocket and spacecraft designs.

Perhaps more than any other astronaut, Aldrin has become a fixture in popular culture. The popular Disney character Buzz Lightyear was named for Aldrin, and he served as the model for MTV’s Moonman mascot and award.

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