NSS Board of Governors Member Has a Long History of Service in Space Advocacy

On May 5, 2023, Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin will receive an honorary promotion to brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. The ceremony will be held at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in Los Angeles, California. Besides his yeoman service with the Air Force and NASA, Dr. Aldrin has worked in various capacities with the National Space Society (NSS) since its founding and currently sits on the organization’s Board of Governors. His strong voice and tireless leadership helped to make the organization what it is today.

“Buzz Aldrin is both an American hero and a national treasure,” said Karlton Johnson, Chairman of the NSS Board of Governors and a retired Air Force colonel. “Being on our country’s first team to set foot on the Moon, his legacy is a clarion call for humanity’s ultimate expansion and settlement of the solar system. As a fellow airman, I salute his accomplishments and this overdue promotion, and on behalf of the NSS Board of Governors, we are so very proud to have Buzz amongst this august team! Well done, Buzz!”

Dr. Aldrin, who retired from the Air Force as a colonel, graduated from West Point in 1951 with a degree in mechanical engineering and entered active service with the U.S. Air Force in 1952. He flew 66 combat missions, shooting down two enemy fighters in the Korean Conflict. He later served in Germany, leaving active service in 1959.

Upon leaving the Air Force, Aldrin enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), graduating with a doctorate in astronautics. His dissertation focused on crewed orbital rendezvous, and his theory would be put into practice in just a few years during the flight of Gemini 12.

Dr. Aldrin was selected as a NASA astronaut in 1963—the first astronaut with a doctorate degree—and he flew his first space mission, Gemini 12, in 1966. During that mission he completed a manual rendezvous when the spacecraft computer failed, using only a sextant and slide rule, and completed the first completely successful Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) of the Gemini program, a step considered critical for moving ahead with the Apollo lunar landing missions.

For the next few years, he served on backup crews for Apollo missions until July 16, 1969, when he launched aboard Apollo 11 with crewmates Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, serving as the Lunar Module Pilot for that mission. Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon on July 20, performing the first sortie on its surface in history.

“Buzz Aldrin’s keen scientific mind—one of the most brilliant I’ve ever had the pleasure to interact with—was critical to the success of both the Gemini and Apollo missions,” said Rod Pyle, the Editor-in-Chief of the NSS Ad Astra magazine and an author of numerous spaceflight histories, including 2019’s First On the Moon, co-published by NSS. “On his Gemini 12 flight, Buzz was the first to succeed in meeting all objectives of his EVA due to his extensive preparation in an underwater simulator, a technique which he helped to pioneer. On Apollo 11, his characterization of moving on the lunar surface in the bulky Apollo EVA suit helped NASA to refine future lunar surface exploration techniques. It’s fair to say that without Buzz’s contributions, the early Apollo missions would not have gone as smoothly.”

Dr. Aldrin has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Air Medals, and countless other awards from across the world. In 2011, the Apollo 11 crew received the Congressional Gold Medal. In Feb 2019, Aldrin was honored at the State of The Union Address with a standing ovation.

Dr. Aldrin has been a staunch supporter of STEM education for decades, authoring and co-authoring over a dozen books, including children’s educational titles with Marianne Dyson, a former member of the NSS Board of Directors. His various educational foundations have benefited schools nationwide, and Aldrin has been a strong proponent of international unity in space exploration. Dr. Aldrin has also been a prominent media figure for decades, appearing as himself on numerous TV shows.

Image: Dr. Aldrin presenting at the NSS International Space Development Conference in 2019. Credit: NSS/Keith Zacharski.

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