The illustrious career of Essex County’s own Buzz Aldrin
Buzz Aldrin was born in Glen Ridge and grew up in Montclair. He was born on January 20, 1930. He attended the US Military Academy in West Point, graduating third in his class. After receiving his appointment, he became a decorated fighter pilot during the Korean War.
He was rejected in his first attempt to become an astronaut but was accepted in the next round of selections; he successfully completed his mission aboard Gemini 12, performing "extravehicular activity,” going outside the spacecraft. He was then assigned to the Apollo program. The crew was led by Neil Armstrong as Commander. Aldrin was the Lunar Module Pilot. Aldrin and Armstrong were the first humans to walk on the moon as part of the famed Apollo 11 mission; Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon and Aldrin was the second.
After his career in space, he became the commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He ultimately retired as a colonel. He wrote in his autobiography that he suffered from depression and alcoholism in his post-space life. At one time he sold cars in Beverly Hills, but he said he was a “terrible salesman”. He eventually sobered up and became a public speaker.
In 2002 (at age 72), he famously punched out a man who claimed that the moon landing was staged and called Aldrin a liar. He has traveled to both the North and South Poles, but had to be airlifted from the South Pole when, at age 86, he fell ill during the expedition.
He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2008.
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