Tag Archives: Apollo 11

Buzz Aldrin

Buzz Aldrin (1930)

Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. was born on January 20th, 1930 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. The son of an Air Force Colonel, he followed in his father’s footsteps by enrolling in West Point and joining the United State Air Force – ending up being a decorated Air Force pilot with 66 combat missions in the Korean War under his belt. Shortly after the war, Buzz enrolled to earn his doctorate degree in astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He applied to join the astronaut corps shortly after but believe it or not, was initially rejected for not being a test pilot. Luckily NASA altered the program’s requirements and so in October 1963 Buzz joined the third astronaut group.

It wasn’t just Buzz who was lucky by the way because three years later, during the Gemini 12 mission of which he was the pilot, a broken radar connection threatened Gemini’s docking maneuvers with Agena, the vehicle it was scheduled to rendezvous with in orbit. Buzz got the chance (see 6:20 in the video) to prove his theories on orbital rendezvous using the strategies he’d outlined at MIT (hear the commentator at 7:10 in the video talking about the coincidence!), and ended up programming the computer to complete the docking successfully. He pulled of another feat on that mission when he spent over five hours outside of the craft, setting the record for longest EVA (extravehicular activity, basically a space walk) so far.

Check out the awesome video below, from 1966, showing not only parts of his EVA but also how he trained for it using underwater simulation. By the time of the mission he already had 9 years of diving experience – a hobby he got into after someone made a comment about how similar underwater and space are when it comes to the freedom of weightlessness.

And then there was obviously that milestone in human history called Apollo 11, where he became the second man to walk on the surface of the Moon. Although he was superseded in that task by Neil Armstrong, Buzz was the first man to hold a religious ceremony on the moon when he took communion.  A legend in his own right, he rescued probably the most complex thing mankind ever did up until that point, with a felt-tip pen from his flight suit’s pocket. Move over MacGuyer! If you want to read about this rather unbelievable fact, check out the “Low-Tech Trick” section about 2/3rds down this buzzaldrin.com page.

After returning from his mission to the moon, Aldrin was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American peacetime award. This was followed by a goodwill tour around the globe with his fellow astronauts, where he was awarded with numerous other awards and medals from various countries of origin. Upon retiring from NASA and the space program, Buzz Aldrin became Commandant of the US Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base and he retired from military service in 1972. He devised a plan for future space missions, including his mission to Mars plan known as the “Aldrin Mars Cycler” – more on that another time – and also received several patents that will hopefully contribute to future developments in space exploration.

In 2011, Buzz Aldrin, along with the entire Apollo 11 crew, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their significant contributions to country’s space program and scientific discoveries. He is an author of eight books including his New York Times best selling autobiography entitled, “Magnificent Desolation”, and in recent years has used his influence and experience to lobby for the expansion of the current US Space Program. May he live long and prosper!


NASA logo

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) – How It All Started

When talking about rockets, shuttles, satellites, space telescopes, etc. one would undoubtly stumble upon NASA somewhere in that conversation, and truly, books could be (and have been) written about NASA but let us start at the beginning. They have been so prominent in the 2nd half of the 20th century, that it would be hard to imagine a world without them. The organisation’s Twitter account describes is beautifully:

“NASA’s mission is the pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

This year, 2013, NASA will be celebrating their 55th anniversary which is pretty incredible. NASA actually started out as the National Advisory Committee for Astronautics, NACA (founded in 1916 to be the civilian government organization performing research into aviation) before turning into the National Aeronautics and Space Agency or NASA we know today. Who can remember a PC from back in those days? No one – that’s right, cause PCs weren’t for the mass market yet for over another decade! The pioneers of those days truly were on the cutting edge of what was technologically possible at the time, and it’s hard to imagine that your smartphone now will have multiple times more processing power than the entire Apollo 11 program put together.

Founded under President Eisenhower, it was President Kennedy who made the speech that would go into history as the “moon speech” – you can watch the highlights here. But let us not forget that one of the main reasons for NASA‘s existence was the arms race between the United States and Russia. For it was during Russia’s Sputnik I and II missions – which caught the world’s attention and the American public off-guard – in November 1957, that Eisenhower appointed the president of MIT as his special advisor on science and technology. It was feared that the successful launch of these satellites meant that intercontinental ballistic missiles would not be too far off. Less than a year later, NASA was born, and so the space race between the US and the U.S.S.R. started.

For more on NASA, stay tuned!