Astronaut, explorer, rocket scientist, American hero, and tireless STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) advocate … these are just a few things that describe Dr. Buzz Aldrin, second moonwalker and one of the world’s most visible space travelers. At age 85, he still shows no signs of slowing down; in fact, he’s working on a new project. Now he can add professor and institute namesake to his still-growing list of “hats.”
On Thursday, Aug. 27, the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) announced that it was formalizing the establishment of the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, named after one of its newest professors. This institute will promote one of Aldrin’s passions, Mars’ settlement research. FIT also boasts space shuttle veteran astronauts Winston Scott (STS-72, STS-87) and Sam Durrance (STS-35, STS-67) on its faculty roster.
Aldrin, who earned a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before his astronaut days, recently joined FIT as a Research Professor of Aeronautics and will also serve as a Senior Faculty Advisor for the institute. At a press conference T. Dwayne McCay, Florida Tech executive vice president and COO, stated: “We welcome Dr. Aldrin to the Florida Tech faculty. Our entire learning community will benefit from his presence.”
Florida Tech President and CEO Anthony J. Catanese reaffirmed McCay’s sentiment. “Florida Tech has long been at the forefront of exploration – since the days of our founding in 1958, serving as the ‘night school for missilemen’ when America began the race for space at Cape Canaveral. Having Dr. Aldrin build this new initiative at Florida Tech is indeed an honor. We look forward to meaningful collaboration as humankind’s new vision for space unfolds,” he related.
Aldrin chimed in, adding: “I’m thrilled to be partnering with FIT in my new home state of Florida. I am proud of my time at NASA with the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 programs, but I hope to be remembered more for my contributions to the future. FIT will play a key role in my ongoing legacy and Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars. You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
FIT underscored the Aldrin institute’s purpose, stating: “The Institute will support commercial and international development of lunar resources to support an eventual Mars settlement. Dr. Aldrin’s concept is called Cycling Pathways to Occupy Mars. The proposed architecture establishes pathways of progressive missions to cis-lunar space, asteroids, Phobos, and eventually to the surface of Mars.” Aldrin began developing a concept called the “Aldrin Mars Cycler” in 1985, described as a spacecraft system with cycling orbits between Earth and Mars. His book Mission to Mars, published in 2013, discusses his longtime interest in conquering the Red Planet, while his “Get Your Ass to Mars” T-shirts (benefiting his ShareSpace Foundation) have become a pop culture hit, worn by celebrities such as the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl.
Aldrin’s aim for Mars encompasses more than just cool slogan T-shirts. According to FIT, he has secured “three U.S. patents for his schematics of a modular space station, Starbooster reusable rockets, and multi-crew modules for space flight.” He also founded Starcraft Boosters, Inc., a rocket design company. FIT also announced that they will maintain Aldrin’s papers and archival documents, establishing the Buzz Aldrin Special Collection and Archives at the school’s Evans library.
Even if Aldrin had never become a professor, established a space institute, a foundation, and invented a Mars Cycler, his achievements would still be forever etched in the pages of history. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and MIT, he was a jet fighter pilot in the Korean War. In 1963, he was selected to NASA’s astronaut corps among fellow Apollo astronauts such as future crewmate Michael Collins, Richard Gordon, David Scott, and Eugene Cernan. In late 1966, Aldrin flew as pilot of Gemini 12, alongside command pilot James Lovell (who would fly on two Apollo missions). During this final mission of the Gemini program, the spacecraft docked with an Agena target vehicle, and Aldrin performed an extravehicular activity that proved “spacewalks” could be useful, accomplishing repairs and activities outside a spacecraft.
In July 1969, lunar module pilot Aldrin, commander Neil Armstrong, and command module pilot Collins crewed Apollo 11, with Aldrin stepping out to explore the lunar surface shortly following Armstrong. They were the first two humans to step upon another world. While his boot steps on the Moon may have sealed his fame as one of the world’s most recognizable figures in spaceflight, his contributions to Mars research will no doubt add to his scientific legacy.Missions » Apollo »