Buzz Aldrin at Sun N Fun 2014
It’s just another day here at Sun N Fun, in the nicest weather we’ve had for years. Of course to offset it I’m the sickest I’ve been in my life, can’t breathe, no sleep, turns out I had Bronchitis, which caused me to head back to Tennessee at the end of the day.
So I’m walking out of the media center to go get the fast Canon cameras and long lenses to shoot the airshow and a pretty young lady in her early 20s says something at the door that grabbed my attention. “I heard he might have been an astronaut?”
If you can’t ID all the Space Shuttle astronauts, your not alone. The only one of them anyone really knows is Robert “Hoot” Gibson (a fellow “Volunteer” from TN), mostly because he was Chief Astronaut, 5 time Space Shuttle Pilot and Commander, Top Gun F-14 Pilot, possibly the world’s finest active pilot, record setter, and maybe the nicest guy in aviation. Of course if Hoot didn’t race Unlimiteds at Reno, maybe nobody would recognize him either.
So I start looking, there is a gray haired man in a red flight suit, being interviewed on TV, as I circle around I identify him instantly….. as the one and only BUZZ ALDRIN. Sweetie, he might have been an astronaut? Where were you in second grade when they said “Columbus discovered America; Armstrong and Aldrin were the first to walk on the moon, with Mike Collins (not my friend the Editor of AOPA Flight Training Magazine either) circling the moon”?
Dr. Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin spend slightly less than 2 1/2 hours on the moon back on July 20, 1969 with Neil Armstrong (who went west on August 25, 2012). Neil was the Commander of the mission as well as”photographer” and had the camera strapped to him. So every shot you see on the moon of an astronaut is a picture of Buzz Aldrin. Neil appeared in reflections and partially in five pictures. All the good shots you saw were Buzz. If you watched MTV in the good old days, the astronaut on the moon looking at the MTV flag was Buzz. Miss “I don’t know much about history” took more iPhone pictures of herself and friends in a bar the night before than Armstrong shot on the moon.
Buzz Aldrin was born in 1930, turned down a full scholarship to MIT and went to the US Military Academy at West Point, graduating 3rd in his class in 1951 with a degree in engineering. He was commissioned into the USAF and served as a pilot in the Korean War. He flew 66 missions in a F-86, scoring 2 MIG kills. He eventually went back to MIT and received a PHD in Astronautics in 1963. His graduate thesis was “Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous”, something that would come in handy with docking the Apollo Capsule and LEM.
His initial application into the astronaut corps was rejected because he was never a test pilot. That requirement was later lifted and he was selected into the 3rd group of Astronauts in 1963 at NASA. He flew 2 Gemini missions and set a record for extra vehicular activity.
On Apollo 11, there was some controversy about who would be first to set foot on the moon. All that ended up being settled by the positioning of the astronauts in the small Lunar Excursion Module. Once they had their gear on, Armstrong was simply closer to the door. He went first, Buzz was second.
There are people out there who don’t believe we went to the moon, these people term it the “Apollo Conspiracy”. On September 9, 2002, Buzz was lured to a Hotel in Beverly Hills supposedly for an interview for a Japanese children’s TV show about space. He was met outside the hotel by Bart Sibrel who harassed him demanding he swear on a Bible he landed on the moon and insisting the whole moon landing was a hoax. After being MORE than provoked, Buzz punched him. The police didn’t file charges because they believed he was provoked. If you watch the video (link at the end), you’ll wonder why he only stopped at one punch. I’m sure at age 72 he still could have given him a better attitude adjustment. Of course the film stopped too, which might have just been the cameraman leaving the scene.
At Sun N Fun, Buzz was there to launch the “Think Global Flight” where a teacher (who is a CFI) and navigator will fly around the world in a Cirrus SR-22. During the flight they will be stopping at schools and talking to children about the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education. The flight will finish at the EAA Convention in Oshkosh this summer. Buzz flew the back seat on first leg of the flight from Lakeland to the Dominican Republic.
Maybe the young lady would have recognized him as “someone who was on Dancing with the Stars” in 2010. Most of us remember him as one of the countless people at NASA who fulfilled John Kennedy’s challenge of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth” by the end of the decade”. Neil, Buzz and Mike did just that. Thank you for risking your lives to conqueror space.
You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.Com. If you read this Dr. Aldrin, I still want your autograph, I didn’t want to disturb you at Sun N Fun, I’ve been waiting for the right moment to ask for 44 years now.
The video of the Beverly Hills incident is at…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wptn5RE2I-k