I know I've been kind of clubbing you guys over the head with a seemingly-endless stream of badass American aviators over the last couple of weeks, but with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing now upon us, I feel morally obligated to mention at least one member of the Apollo 11 crew on this website - if for no other reason than simply because the first manned mission to land on an extraterrestrial body featured three of the United States' all-time greatest badasses; Neil Armstrong, a man whose qualifications are beyond reproach (rest assured, he will be featured on the site in due time), Michael Collins, a West Point grad who made his way into the Apollo program despite having had two vertebrae fused together during a horrific test piloting accident, and Buzz Aldrin – one of the toughest and most undersung heroes in American history, and a crazy kickasstronaut who routinely (and boldly) goes where no man has gone before and face-punches the hell out of anyone who isn't down with it.
Edwin Aldrin was born in New Jersey in 1930, the son of an Air Force Colonel (also named Edwin Aldrin) who had been good buddies with our crazy aviatrix friend Amelia Earhart. Aldrin soon realized that "Edwin" wasn't really as mega-extreme of a name as it could be, so he started going by "Buzz" instead. Now, Buzz is a serious-ass name. It's the sort of name you can really set your watch to. I mean, it's a well-known rule that many things that are hardcore start with Buzz: buzzsaw, buzzcut, buzzbomb, etc. These are all things that don't screw around, and Buzz Aldrin is no exception to this rule.
Aldrin graduated third in his class at West Point and became a badass fighter pilot who flew 66 combat missions during the Korean War and shot down two Soviet MiG-15s while tearing ass through the skies in a crotch-blasting F-86 Sabre. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in combat, and then, just to prove that he wasn't all asskicking and no brains, he went out and got a Ph.D. in Astronautics from goddamned MIT. Now, not only is it probably somewhat difficult to pass classes like Rocket Propulsion and Astrodynamics at one of the world's premier engineering schools, but his 1337 book-learning skillz were so mad that his doctoral thesis on manned space rendezvous techniques was actually incorporated into NASAs manual of standard operating procedures. So, that's not to shabby I guess.
Anyways, around this time the greatest scientists in the US and the Soviet Union were smashing their massive heads together in epic head-butting action as both countries were fighting to be the first world superpower to fling a man up onto the surface of the Moon, and Buzz Aldrin decided he wanted to get in on that intellectual deathmatch. He'd already shown the Russkies that he could jack their shit up from the cockpit of a fighter jet, so why not find a couple new and interesting ways to groin-shot the enemies of Democracy? He signed on with NASA (who, by the way, only took the most elite pilots into their space flight training program), and went to work training as an astronaut – a job which, of course, is undisputably one of the most badass professions this side of "pirate" or "ninja".
Buzz's first mission was the last flight of the Gemini Program, when he went up in Gemini XII with Jim Lovell, a dude you probably know better as Tom Hanks' character in the movie Apollo 13. The objective was to figure out how long humans could survive in space without losing muscle coordination, or, you know, dying a horrific death, so you can pretty much see how crazy it is that a dude like Aldrin went out and volunteered for this insanity. Aldrin's job was basically to go out on the longest space walk ever attempted and see whether or not it would kill him. Of course, our man Buzz wasn't screwing around – he trained relentlessly in the days leading up to the mission, gaining strength and much-needed conditioning by scuba diving and spending extended periods moving around in underwater environments. It worked. He went out and ran around in the deadly vacuum of space for five and a half hours, and returned to his craft alive and intact. For the record, the last time a NASA astronaut when on a spacewalk, he turned back after thirty-three minutes. Not surprisingly, underwater training is now a key component of NASA astronaut conditioning programs. You can thank the Buzz Saw for that.
Well, as we all know, the pinnacle of Aldrin's astronaut career was the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 – one of the defining moments of the 20th century, and one of the biggest kicks to the junk we gave the Soviets in the entire Cold War. For this momentous, insanely-dangerous mission, Buzz was basically strapped into a giant flying explosion that blasted off, went from zero to 24,300 miles per hour in about two seconds (it took them less than a minute to blow past the speed of sound), and catapulted off to infinity and beyond. 109 hours into the mission, the Lunar Module Eagle left the Command Service Module, determined to carry Armstrong and Aldrin to the surface of the Moon.
Things didn't start off so great. Almost immediately, all of these alarms and klaxons started going off in the LM as the on-board computer was becoming fried with an overload of information. But screw that - these guys didn't come all the way out there just to turn back become some jackass computer was too much of a wuss to handle a little bit of stress. The two astronauts flipped the lander onto manual control, descended 50,000 feet at 60 miles an hour, and touched down with just twenty seconds of fuel remaining in the LM's descent engine. On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin flying side-kicked out of the landing craft and started backflipping around the surface of the freaking Moon. It was so awesome that they both wanted to piss. They ran around, collected forty-seven pounds of moon rocks, planted a flag, looked for any Mooninites who needed to be whacked in the face, and did a bunch of other cool stuff as well probably. They spent two hours flipping out on the surface before running back to the LM, blasting off, and giving each other some badass 360-degree Zero-G High-Fives. The spacecraft turned around, and these dudes burned rubber back home at Warp Factor 2, hurtled into Earth's atmosphere at 35,000 feet per second, smashed ass-first into the Pacific Ocean without even breaking a sweat, and rode home on a totally rad U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. All told, these men had spent eight days in space, and when they came back pretty much everyone thought they were thoroughly bitchin'. They got parades, won a truckload of medals, and even got a couple stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (an estimated 600 million people - one-fifth of the world's population at the time - tuned in on their TVs to watch Aldrin and Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface… that should also probably give you some indication of how big of a deal this shit was). The sweet picture of Buzz Aldrin saluting an American flag on the surface of the Moon was also used as the logo for MTV back in the "good old days" when MTV sucked roughly one-half to one-third as much as it does today, so that's something too I guess.
But Buzz Aldrin's badassitude doesn't even end there. After returning to Earth, he served as commander of the Air Force Test Pilot School, ran a non-profit organization, wrote a couple sci-fi novels, overcame severe cases of clinical depression and alcoholism, recorded a rap with Snoop Dogg (!), joined the Freemasons, and got like 175,000 people to follow his Twitter page. He also was part of the second exploration team that went down to investigate the wreckage of the Titanic , which is pretty sweet because it means that during his insane life pushing the envelope of reality in every possible direction, this dude has been 250,000 miles above the Earth, and 2.5 miles below the waves. Oh yeah, he also went on an adventure to the North Pole just to find out whether he really is ridiculously hardcore. Interesting fact: He is.
So here's a funny story. Apparently there are some people out there still think the moon landing was a hoax faked by the government for some bizarre obscure reason that I can't really figure out but that probably makes little to no sense. These guys, incidentally, are pretty much the craziest of all the conspiracy theorists out there. Seriously, even the 9/11 people look down on these jokers. The freaking moon landing hoaxists are right up there with Holocaust deniers and Universe People on the scale of people who are so completely batshit insane that they can make most rational people roll their eyes and groan in five words or less. Ok, buddy, we faked the moon landing, and it went off so well that we replicated it six more times. I mean, honestly, you'd think that if this whole thing was a joke the Russkies would have picked up on it at some point… the last I checked the Soviet KGB was pretty effective, but whatever.
Anyways, in 2005 some crazy nutjob decided he was going to make a revolutionary, earth-shattering documentary proving once and for all that the moon landing was actually shot in a sterilized bathtub in suburban Arizona using old G.I. Joe action figures and a couple pieces of debris from the Lost City of Atlantis that were recovered at a top-secret Area 51 alien sasquatch crash site. In order to most effectively prove his point and act like a rational human being while doing so, this whackadoo amateur film director ran up to the 72 year-old Aldrin and his daughter outside of a hotel and started yelling a bunch of crazy shit at the American astronaut. Basically, the gist of this fucktard's ridiculous delusional tirade was, "yeah right bullshit you didn't walk on the moon, Buzz Aldrin – you are a liar, a thief, and a coward!"
OK. Now this is the United States, and here in America you are free to believe whatever crazy ridiculous nonsense you want to believe. In fact, guys like Buzz Aldrin have fought wars to defend our right to say whatever the hell we want to say whenever we want to say it, no matter how much it makes us look like complete idiots/toolsheds/jackasses. But when you go up to a man, especially a hardass like Buzz Aldrin, look him in the eyes, and call him a "liar, a thief, and a coward" to his face, you also have the right to receive what's rightfully coming to you. And in this case, what's coming to you is a fucking punch in the mouth.
And that's exactly what happened.
Buzz took one look at this guy, said nothing, and coldcocked that douche in the chops with a head-shatteringly badass face-punch that left him staggered and dazed. I'm not entirely sure what happened afterwards, but my guess is that the cops showed up, took one look at Buzz Aldrin, and then maced the shit out of the conspiracy theorist with a bunch of crazy tear gas pepper spray stuff and arrested him for violating every conceivable statute relating to "Criminal Dumbassery".
Personally, I don't know how anyone can look at that video of the 72 year-old ex-fighter pilot and astronaut busting a dude in the face with some old-school fisticuff action and not agree that this man is a badass. Sure, most people probably don't fully understand the extreme physical and mental toughness that goes into the profession of astronauting, but I can assure you that all friends of badassitude can agree that jacking a punk in the face for talking shit to you is one of the most hardcore things you can possibly do. Now Buzz Aldrin has done both.
Aldrin, Buzz and Ken Abraham. Magnificent Desolation. Harmony, 2009.
Harrison, James Pinckney. Mastering the Sky. Da Capo, 2000.
Jones, Thomas and Michael Benson. The Complete Idiot's Guide to NASA. Alpha, 2002.