Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr., astronaut, engineer, former fighter pilot, and hero turns 91 today. But the West Point grad is more than the second man to take that giant leap for mankind. He’s an absolute, all-around American icon.
Before he explored space, Aldrin spent his youth adventuring around his native New Jersey. He was a good student, graduating a year early from high school before heading to West Point for a degree in mechanical engineering.
Aldrin followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the Air Force to become a pilot. He was an ace fighter in the Korean War, earning the distinguished flying cross, according to his biography. His 66 missions as an F86 Sabre fighter pilot, and his doctorate in engineering made him the ideal candidate for NASA’s new space program.
His fearlessness and ingenuity made him the ideal candidate to step on the moon along with Neil Armstrong.
“Once we were on the surface of the Moon we could look back and see the Earth, a little blue dot in the sky,” he said of the experience. “We are a very small part of the solar system and the whole universe. The sky was black as could be, and the horizon was so well defined as it curved many miles away from us into space.”
Buzz Aldrin Continues to Explore
Buzz Aldrin’s cemented his legacy when he stepped off the lunar lander and onto the moon. But he has never slowed down or rested on his accomplishments.
Aldrin published a bestselling memoir in his 80s — he’s written 9 books in all. He founded the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute with the goal of getting man to Mars. He became the oldest person to ever visit the South Pole at 86 years old. Though he nearly died on the trip from altitude sickness. However, he still told the Today show that it was “worth it!”
It’s that attitude of accomplishment trumps adversity that has allowed him to do so much and made him a hero to so many.
“I know the sky is not the limit, because there are footprints on the Moon—and I made some of them!” he wrote in his book No Dream Too High. “So don’t allow anyone to denigrate or inhibit your lofty aspirations. Your dream can take you might higher and much farther than anyone ever thought possible! I know mine did.”