Buzz Aldrin: The Story of the Second Man to Walk on the Moon

When asked who first walked on the moon, the answer is obvious—Neil Armstrong. Who is the second? It is Buzz Aldrin. In a world that is obsessed with being the first, coming in second is usually viewed negatively, often being seen as on the losing side. That is not the case, however. Buzz Aldrin believed that to be the case, too. If any, Buzz should be very proud of himself because it appears that a Toy Story character was named after him. Why do you think Buzz Lightyear sports a spaceman’s suit? While on the subject of names, Buzz was not originally his name but rather Edwin Eugene Aldrin Jr, but in 1998, he engaged the services of attorneys to have his name legally changed to Buzz. Why Buzz, though? We will talk about that later on.

Early Life


One common thing among future astronauts is that they almost have the same early background. Most of them, just like Buzz, have robust military experience. In fact, he was a top student of his class at West Point and a decorated pilot during the Korean War. His humble beginnings, however, trace back to Montclair, New Jersey, when he was born to parents Marion Moon, and Colonel Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Sr. Buzz’s nickname originated from his little sister who could not pronounce “brother” but instead kept on saying “buzzer”, which they eventually shortened to “Buzz”. He ultimately fell in love with the name and had it legally changed. Buzz’s childhood was routine, and it appears they did not have any issues with a mortgage or anything financial. After high school, he went straight to West Point, finishing third in his class.

Military Career

Buzz wanted to become a fighter pilot when he graduated from West Point armed with a degree in mechanical engineering. His father, however, thought that with his engineering background, Buzz would do better in a multi-engine flight school. Buzz was decisive, however, and his father relented. When the future astronaut joined the military, he became part of the 51st Fighter Wing where he would soon fly F-86 fighter jets in war-torn Korea. When the two Koreas agreed to a cease-fire in 1953, Buzz turned to the US and to school to become a pilot. He was successful and earned his Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics. He was given credit for writing a thesis on guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous that became a critical part of the protocols followed by space pilots in the years that followed.

Space Flight and Career at NASA

Now a more experienced pilot who had made investments in time and money to learn more about space, Buzz soon applied to NASA and got accepted in 1963. Upon acceptance, he started working on completing his thesis practicable for space flight. He also pioneered training techniques done underwater to simulate the zero gravity in space. Buzz was excited to join Gemini 12 where, on November 11 to 15, 1966 mission, he was able to perform a spacewalk for five hours.

Walking on the Moon

When NASA assigned Buzz as the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 11 mission, he became the second man to walk the lunar surface. Their lunar excursions did not prove to be a walk in the park as he and mission commander Neil Armstrong spent close to 21 hours walking, exploring, and collecting moon rock samples. The degree of effort they exerted was commendable given the limitations of their space suit and the harsh conditions on the moon’s surface. Meanwhile, the people on Earth felt excited as the mission unfolded on live television at that time. If it happened today, their lunar exploration would have instantly gone viral.

Post-lunar landing events

What happened after the Apollo 11 crew returned to Earth was nothing short of phenomenal. Buzz was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was included in a 45-day international tour. The whole team even received four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As with any good thing, however, his career at NASA also came to an end. In 1972, after 21 years, Buzz retired from active duty and took up a managerial role at the Air Force. He also wrote a memoir and several books that talked about the mission and his experience. For sure, we can credit Buzz for happy memories of the lunar landing. And for the generation who did not witness it firsthand, the event remains a treasure trove of knowledge and adventure.