His specialized study of rendezvous helped to earn him entry into the space program shortly after graduation. In 1963, Aldrin was part of a third group of men selected by NASA to attempt to pioneer space flight. Aldrin was put in charge of creating docking and rendezvous techniques for spacecraft. He also pioneered underwater training techniques, to simulate flight in zero gravity.
In 1966, Aldrin and astronaut Jim Lovell were assigned to the Gemini 12 crew. During their November 11 to November 15, 1966, space flight, Aldrin made a five-hour spacewalk the longest and most successful spacewalk ever done up to that time. He also used his rendezvous abilities to manually recalculate all the docking maneuvers on the flight, after the on-board radar failed.
After Gemini 12, Aldrin was assigned to the backup crew of Apollo 8 along with Neil Armstrong and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt. On July 20, 1969, Buzz, along with flight commander Neil Armstrong, made the historic Apollo 11 moonwalk, becoming the first two humans to set foot on another planet. They spent a total of 21 hours on the moon’s surface, and returned with 46 pounds of moon rocks. The walk, which was televised, drew an estimated 600 million people to watch, becoming the world’s largest television audience in history.
Upon their safe return to Earth, Buzz was decorated with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by a 45-day international goodwill tour. Among their distinguished honors and medals, Buzz and his Apollo 11 crew also have four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California.
On March 1972, after 21 years of service, Aldrin retired from active duty and returned to the Air Force in a managerial role. He later admitted in his 1973 autobiography, Return to Earth, that he struggled with depression and alcoholism following his years with NASA. After struggling with divorce and maintaining sobriety, Aldrin turned to studying advancements in space technology. He devised a spacecraft system for missions to Mars known as the “Aldrin Mars Cycler,” and has received three US patents for his schematics of a modular space station, Starbooster reusable rockets, and multi-crew modules. He also founded ShareSpace Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to advancing space education, exploration and affordable space flight experiences.
Aldrin has been married three times. His first wife was actress Joan Archer, followed by Beverly Zile. He married his current wife, Lois Driggs Cannon, on Valentine’s Day in 1988. He has three children and one grandchild.
Biography courtesy of BIO.com