18 Things You Didn't Know About Buzz Aldrin

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.

  • His Nickname Had Nothing to Do with a Haircut

    Buzz Aldrin was born on January 20, 1930 as Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr. The name "Buzz" came from his sister, who mispronounced "brother" as "buzzer." The shortened version of that caught on with the family, and it stuck, so much so that Aldrin had his name legally changed in 1988. 

  • His Mother's Maiden Name Was "Moon"

    In what was either a portent of what was to come or just a fun coincidence, Aldrin's mother Marion was born Marion Moon. Sadly, she committed suicide in 1968, one year before her son went to the moon.

  • Aldrin Turned Down MIT

    Aldrin attended the United States Military Academy at West Point starting in 1947. He would eventually attend MIT in the early '60s, obtaining his doctorate in astronautics in 1963.

  • He Was a Combat Pilot in Korea
    Photo: United States Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    He Was a Combat Pilot in Korea

    After graduating from West Point in 1951, Aldrin was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. He was assigned to Korea, and flew 66 combat missions in an F-86 Sabre jet fighter. He shot down two MiG 15 fighters, and won a number of prestigious medals.

  • 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.