Buzz Aldrin was the second man to walk on the moon, emerging soon after Neil Armstrong took the first lunar steps. Aldrin instantly became a celebrity, with people becoming intimately familiar with his biography. Interesting facts about Buzz Aldrin range from the origin of his nickname to him not making it into NASA's astronaut program until the third try. He also struggled greatly after leaving NASA in 1971.
Aldrin has done everything from write novels to fly combat missions, and almost everything in between. He's gotten sober, feuded with companies that used his image without permission, punched a moon landing denier, and criticized NASA's current mission priorities. He's also been an advocate for manned space exploration - and for science education.
Here are some interesting and little known Buzz Aldrin facts, one of the most fascinating figures in American history.
It Took Three Tries for Aldrin to Become an Astronaut
Aldrin's entire post-war career was geared toward becoming an astronaut, including his doctoral thesis at MIT, called "Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous." But Aldrin was rejected after his first application to the astronaut corps, because he hadn't been a test pilot, and this was, at first, a requirement for acceptance. When that requirement was lifted, Aldrin was accepted in the third group of astronauts.
Apollo 11 Wasn't Aldrin's First Trip to Space
The Apollo 11 flight during which Aldrin and Armstrong walked on the moon was actually Aldrin's second time in space. Aldrin was assigned to pilot Gemini 12 in 1966, the final Gemini mission, on which he set a NASA record for time spent in space on an EVA.
Aldrin Wanted to Be the First Man on the Moon
While Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong ended up being the first human being to set foot on the moon, Buzz Aldrin wanted the distinction for himself. NASA protocol up until that point was that the less senior officer on a mission would be the first one out on a spacewalk, allowing the commander to stay inside if something went wrong.
Various sources tell different stories, but both Aldrin and NASA apparently wanted Aldrin to come out first, leaving Armstrong inside to monitor Aldrin's walk. But positioning inside the lunar module made it impossible for Aldrin to get out first - Armstrong was the one closer to the door.
Aldrin Held the First Religious Ceremony on the Moon
As the second human being to walk on the moon, Aldrin is the holder of a number of "firsts" on the moon. He held the first lunar religious service, taking communion using a kit from his home church in Houston, where Aldrin was an elder.The communion wasn't broadcast, and was kept a secret for many years, due to a lawsuit against NASA by a preeminent atheist who objected to religious readings in previous missions. Aldrin later said if he had to do it all over again, he might not have performed the communion ceremony.