Edwin Eugene, “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., was born January 20, 1930, in Montclair, New Jersey. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1951 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating third in his class. He then entered the U.S. Air Force and earned his pilot's wings in 1952.
Aldrin flew 66 combat missions while on duty in Korea. Following his assignment as aide to the dean of faculty at the Air Force Academy, Aldrin flew F-100s as a flight commander at Bitburg, Germany. He temporarily left flying in 1959 to earn a doctorate of science in astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His thesis was a study of piloted rendezvous, and techniques he devised are used on all space rendezvous and docking flights. After leaving MIT, he was assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division, Los Angeles.
Later in 1963 he transferred to the Manned Space Center (now the Johnson Space Center) in Houston, Texas, to work with experiments slated for missions aboard the Gemini spacecraft. He joined the third group of astronauts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in October 1963 and was the first astronaut with a Ph.D.
On November 11, 1966, he and command pilot James Lovell were launched into space in the Gemini 12 spacecraft on a four-day flight, ending the successful Gemini program. Aldrin established a new record for extravehicular activity (EVA), spending a total of 5-1/2 hours outside the spacecraft. His two-hour spacewalk on the flight was the longest and most successful spacewalk ever done to that time.
Apollo 11, the first human lunar landing mission, launched on July 16, 1969, with Aldrin serving as lunar module pilot for the mission. Aldrin followed Neil Armstrong onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, completing a 2-hour and 15 minute lunar spacewalk.
After Apollo 11, Aldrin worked briefly on the space shuttle program and then retired from NASA to resume his air force career. While at NASA, Aldrin had logged 289 hours and 53 minutes in space, of which, 7 hours and 52 minutes were spent in EVA. When he rejoined the air force, he became the commander of the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. He was hospitalized for depression in 1972 and retired from the air force in March 1972, after 21 years of service.
Since 1972, Aldrin has written many books and articles including Return to Earth, an account of his Apollo experiences and his subsequent breakdown. He has taught aerospace engineering at the University of North Dakota, served as chairperson of the National Space Society, and has lectured throughout the world on his unique perspective of America's future in space.
Aldrin received numerous decorations and awards, including the Presidential Medal for Freedom in 1969, the Robert J. Collier Trophy, the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy, and the Harmon International Trophy in 1967.