5 February 1971, 09:18:11 UTC, T + 108:15:09.30: The Apollo 14 Lunar Module Antares (LM-8), with astronauts Alan B. Shepard and Edgar D. Mitchell aboard, landed at the Fra Mauro Highlands, The Moon.
This was the third manned lunar landing. It was 9 years, 8 months, 30 days, 18 hours, 43 minutes, 58 seconds since Shepard had lifted off from Cape Canaveral aboard Freedom 7, becoming the first American astronaut launched into space.
5 hours, 36 minutes later, at 14:54 UTC, T + 113:51, Alan Shepard stepped on to the surface of The Moon.
20 January 1930: Colonel Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., Sc.D., United States Air Force (Retired), was born at Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the second child of Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Aviation Director of Standard Oil of New Jersey, and Marion Gaddys Moon Aldrin.
The family resided in Montclair, New Jersey. “Buzz” Aldrin attended Montclair High School, and participated in football and track and field (pole vault). He graduated in 1947.
After high school, Aldrin turned down a full scholarship to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and instead went to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. During his Plebe Year (freshman), he placed first in academics and physical education. He was a member of the French Club, and the track and swim team. In his third year, he was a cadet corporal, and was designated as “distinguished.” He served as a cadet lieutenant during his final year.
Aldrin graduated 5 June 1951with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering (B.S.M.E.). He was ranked third in his class. A notation in the class yearbook states,
“As is evidenced by his fine record at the Academy, Buzz should make a capable, dependable and efficient officer in the U.S. Air Force.”
—The Howitzer 1951, at Page 98
He accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force with the date of rank retroactive to 1 June 1951. Second Lieutenant Aldrin was assigned to basic flight training at Bartow Air Force Base, Florida. Advanced training took place at Bryan Air Force Base, Texas. He trained as a fighter pilot and transitioned to the North American Aviation F-86 Sabre at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lieutenant Aldrin flew the North American Aviation F-86E Sabre with the 16th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, located at Suwon Air Base (K-13). He shot down an enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15 fighter, 14 May 1953, for which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.¹ Three weeks later, 7 June, he shot down a second MiG 15.
Buzz Aldrin flew 66 combat missions during the Korean War. After returning to the United States, he served as a flight instructor at Bryan AFB, Texas, and then a gunnery instructor at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
1st Lieutenant Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., married Miss Joan Ann Archer at the Episcopal Church in Ho-ho-kus, New Jersey, 29 December 1954. They would have three children.
Lieutenant Aldrin’s next assignment was to the three-month Squadron officer School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. Aldrin then served as an aide to Brigadier General Don Zabriskie Zimmerman, Dean of Faculty at the newly-established United States Air Force Academy, which was then located at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado.
In 1955, Captain Aldrin was assigned to the 22nd Fighter Day Squadron, 36th Fighter Day Wing, at Bitberg Air Base, Germany, flying the North American Aviation F-100 Super Sabre. The squadron trained at Wheelus Air Base in North Africa.
In 1959 Captain Aldrin returned to the United States to enter a masters degree program in Aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.), Cambridge, Massachusetts. Aldrin and his wife were both very seriously ill at this time, and he was in a military hospital for the first six months. With nothing to do but study, he finished first among the other Air Force officers in the program.
Aldrin remained at M.I.T. to earn a Doctorate in Science in Astronautics (Sc.D.) by devising orbital navigation techniques. His thesis on Manned Orbital Rendezvous, earned Buzz another nickname: “Dr. Rendezvous.”
In October 1963, Major Aldrin was selected as an astronaut for the Gemini Program. He was one of 14 members of NASA Astronaut Group 3, which was announced 18 October 1963. He flew with James A. Lovell, Jr., aboard Gemini XII, 11–15 November 1966. They made 59 orbits of the Earth in 3 days, 22 hours, 34 minutes, 31 seconds. Aldrin performed the first successful “space walk.” He was outside the spacecraft for three “EVAs,” of 2 hours, 29 minutes; 2 hours, 6 minutes; and 55 minutes.He then went on to the Apollo Program. A rendezvous and docking with an Agena target vehicle was also successful.
Gemini XII was the final manned flight of the Gemini Program. Buzz Aldrin moved on to the Apollo Program.
Along with Neil Alden Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, 20 July 1969.
Aldrin resigned from NASA in July 1971. Returning to operational service with the Air Force, Colonel Aldrin was assigned as Commandant of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He retired in March 1972.
In Return To Earth, (Random House, Inc., New York, 1973) Buzz Aldrin wrote about the depression he suffered: After you’ve been to the Moon, what else is there?
Aldrin has been married three times. He and his first wife, Joan, divorced in December 1974. He married Mrs. Beverly I. Handelsman Van Zile, 19 December 1975. They divorced 10 April 1978. On Valentine’s Day, 14 February 1988, Aldrin married his third wife, Mrs. Lois Driggs Cannon. They divorced 28 December 2012.
Buzz Aldrin has written several books and he continues to advocate manned space exploration.
HAPPY 88th BIRTHDAY, Colonel Aldrin!
¹ Soviet records indicate that a MiG 15 of 913 IAP (Istrebitel’nyy Aviatsionnyy Polk, Fighter Aviation Regiment), 32nd IAD (Istrebitel’naya Aviatsionnyy Diveeziya, Fighter Aviation Division), based at Antung Air Base, China, was shot down by an F-86 on 13 May 1953. The pilot, Senior Lieutenant Hristoforov, ejected safely. There were three MiG 15 losses that occurred on 14 May 1953. Two MiGs of 224 IAP collided and both pilots, Senior Lieutenant Odintsov and Lieutenant Evgeny Stroliikov, ejected. Odintsov was seriously hurt. A third MiG 15 crash landed at Myagoy Air Base. Its pilot, Senior Lieutenant Vladimir Sedashev, 518 IAP, was killed.
19 December 1972: At 2:25 p.m. EST—12 days, 13 hours, 51 minutes, 59 seconds after departing the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida—the Apollo 17 command module America (CM-112) returned to Earth, splashing down in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 350 miles (563 kilometers) southeast of Samoa. The three 83 foot, 6 inch diameter (25.451 meters) ring sail main parachutes had deployed at an altitude of 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) and slowed the capsule to 22 miles per hour (35.4 kilometers per hour) before it hit the ocean’s surface.
The landing had a high degree of accuracy, coming within 4.0 miles (6.44 kilometers) of the recovery ship, the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVS-14).
The flight crew was picked up by a Sikorsky SH-3G Sea King helicopter, Bu. No. 149930, of HC-1, and transported to Ticonderoga. The three astronauts, Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald A. Evans and Harrison H. Schmitt, stepped aboard the aircraft carrier 52 minutes after splashdown.
The splashdown of Apollo 17 brought to an end the era of manned exploration of the Moon which had begun just 3 years, 3 days, 5 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds earlier with the launch of Apollo 11.
Only 12 men have set foot on The Moon. In 44 years, no human has returned.
13 December 1972: At approximately 22:26 UTC, NASA Astronauts Eugene A. Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt began the last of three moon walks, or EVAs, on the surface of the Moon at the Taurus-Littrow Valley.
“Bob, [Robert A.P. Parker, Astronaut, Houston Mission Control Cap Com]this is Gene, and I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come — but we believe not too long into the future — I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return: with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”
— Astronaut Eugene Andrew Cernan, Captain, USN, at the Taurus Littrow Valley, The Moon, at Mission Time 170:40:00
This was the final EVA of the Apollo Program, lasting approximately 7 hours, 15 minutes. Then Harrison H. Schmitt and Gene Cernan climbed up into the Lunar Module Challenger to prepare to lift off the following day.
Gene Cernan was the last man to stand on the surface of the Moon.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration John H. Glenn Research Center Lewis Field Cleveland, Ohio 44135
Neil A. Armstrong
Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. He began his NASA career in Ohio.
After serving as a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1955. His first assignment was with the NACA Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn) in Cleveland. Over the next 17 years, he was an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator for NACA and its successor agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
As a research pilot at NASA’s Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., he was a project pilot on many pioneering high speed aircraft, including the well known, 4000-mph X-15. He has flown over 200 different models of aircraft, including jets, rockets, helicopters and gliders.
Armstrong transferred to astronaut status in 1962. He was assigned as command pilot for the Gemini 8 mission. Gemini 8 was launched on March 16, 1966, and Armstrong performed the first successful docking of two vehicles in space.
As spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, Armstrong gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the moon and first to step on its surface.
Armstrong subsequently held the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In this position, he was responsible for the coordination and management of overall NASA research and technology work related to aeronautics.
He was Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Cincinnati between 1971-1979. During the years 1982-1992, Armstrong was chairman of Computing Technologies for Aviation, Inc., Charlottesville, Va.
He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University and a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California. He holds honorary doctorates from a number of universities.
Armstrong is a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the Royal Aeronautical Society; Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the International Astronautics Federation.
He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco. He served as a member of the National Commission on Space (1985-1986), as Vice-Chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident (1986), and as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Peace Corps (1971-1973).
Armstrong has been decorated by 17 countries. He is the recipient of many special honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Congressional Space Medal of Honor; the Explorers Club Medal; the Robert H. Goddard Memorial Trophy; the NASA Distinguished Service Medal; the Harmon International Aviation Trophy; the Royal Geographic Society’s Gold Medal; the Federation Aeronautique Internationale’s Gold Space Medal; the American Astronautical Society Flight Achievement Award; the Robert J. Collier Trophy; the AIAA Astronautics Award; the Octave Chanute Award; and the John J. Montgomery Award.
Armstrong passed away on Aug. 25, 2012 following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. He was 82.