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Apollo Astronaut 'Buzz' Aldrin Talks Moon, Mars on Reddit

In photo taken by astronaut Neil Armstrong with a 70mm lunar surface camera, Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module
In photo taken by astronaut Neil Armstrong with a 70mm lunar surface camera, Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the Moon near the leg of the Lunar Module "Eagle," Apollo 11 mission, July 1969.

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Famed Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin’s name was the result of his older sister calling him “buzzard” because she couldn’t say “brother” when he was an infant.

That, along with a host of other personal facts about the second man to set foot on the moon, was revealed during an online chat with users on reddit.com.

July 20 is the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and Aldrin, 84, took to the Web to say he wanted to be named a “designated lunar ambassador” along with all the other Apollo astronauts who reached the moon.

Aldrin was one of three members of the mission to the Moon, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins. Armstrong, who died in 2012, preceded Aldrin in setting foot on the lunar surface, making his legendary utterance: “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.”

Asked if one could experience anything like the Moon on Earth, Aldrin said “there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface,” adding that the desolation was “magnificent.”

He was also asked what went through his mind when he looked back at Earth from the lunar surface.

"Where are the billions and billions and billions of people, on what I'm looking at? We're the only 3 that are not back there,” he wrote. “And we didn't get to celebrate [the landing]. Because we were out of town.”

His most frightening moment came with the lunar lander was rendezvousing with the command capsule after the landing. As the two craft approached each other, Aldrin decided “on the spur of the moment” to change the docking procedure because he thought he had a better way.

Just a few feet from docking, the lunar lander lost primary thrusters and the primary guidance used to control the spacecraft. The crew was able to recover using the abort guidance system, Aldrin said.

“That was my mistake,” he said. “I suggested to my commander that we do it differently, and it was his mistake to assume that I knew what I was talking about. So we both made mistakes — brought about by me!”

Looking into the future, Aldrin said he thought the “next monumental achievement of humanity will be the first landing by an Earthling, a human being, on the planet Mars.”

He added that he thought that within two decades, the U.S. would lead an international presence on Mars.

Aldrin reiterated his somewhat controversial stance that any manned mission to Mars should not come back to Earth, but rather stay on the Red Planet as the start of a permanent presence. When asked what he would say to a prospective crew heading to Mars for the first time, Aldrin urged the crew to “have fun!”

“Realize that you are perhaps the most ambitious, the most historical pioneers that the earth has produced since its beginning,” he wrote. “And you are given a great honor in spending the rest of your lives pioneering for mankind.”

On a lighter note, Aldrin was asked if he’d been tempted to lay down on the lunar surface and make snow angels.

“That was not at all tempting,” he said. “I wanted my white spacesuit to remain as clean as possible!”

Aldrin also announced the creation of a social media campaign to celebrate the 45th anniversary, which includes a YouTube channel where people can share their memories of the day when he and Armstrong walked on the moon.

Collins, 83, is believed to be living in Florida, largely avoiding publicity.

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