Buzz Aldrin in his astronaut days and now his dancing days.

Left: Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin takes photos during training on July 1, 1969. Photo: NASA Kennedy Space Center. Right: Aldrin rehearses with dance partner Ashly Costa. A typical session in the studio is three-and-a-half to four hours. Photo: ABC/Rick Rowell.

A competitive nature propelled Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63 into his career as an astronaut, and it’s that same spirit he’s taking with him on his next venture, as a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (DWTS), premiering this Monday, March 22. Aldrin has already sized up his competition, targeting none other than Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek as his most formidable challenge.

“If you take [Lysacek’s] age and multiply by three, it’s still eight years younger than me,” Aldrin says. But he’s not daunted. For relaxation, the octogenarian scuba dives and downhill skis (which he took up at age 50) and continues exploring other non-celestial worlds: Antarctica, the Titanic ruins two-and-a-half miles below the ocean surface, the North Pole on a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker. “This dude, for an 80 year old—he could probably bench-press me if he wanted to,” Lysacek told Access Hollywood.”

And let’s not forget that Aldrin brings something to the competition no other dancer does. An MIT degree. What exactly does that afford him? “Concentration, orderly thinking, memory, integrated thinking of transitions from one step to another,…an appreciation for the bigger picture” he says. “I learned all of those things at MIT.”

Buzz Aldrin dancing with partner Ashly Costa for the premier of Dancing with the Stars.

Photo: ABC/Rick Rowell.

On being hip
Dancing on a reality show is not Aldrin’s first foray into pop culture. You might actually be surprised to learn how visible he is. He’s performed in a rap video with Snoop Dogg and others (view the performance or see the making-of video at the end of this post—it’s hilarious); guest-starred in episodes of The Simpsons, Numb3rs, Sesame Street, 30 Rock (airing May 6), and more; will soon release an iPhone app; launched a space brand, Rocket Hero, that’s been licensed by electronics, toys, science-edutainment, and apparel companies, like Nike for a skate shoe; is the inspiration behind Disney’s Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear; and served as the icon for MTV’s original station identification and its video music award, the Moonman (originally called the Buzzy). MTV is so indebted to Aldrin that it has given him its first-ever official endorsement of a DWTS contender, dubbing Aldrin the celebrity they most hope wins the competition.

Some of Aldrin’s many public appearances are aimed at promoting books he’s coauthored, of which there are seven, including two illustrated children’s books, two science-fiction novels, and two autobiographies. His most recent is the memoir Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon (Harmony 2009), written with Ken Abraham. (more…)



If you’re like me (and not living in Arizona, Hawaii, U.S. insular areas of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, or most places near the equator), you’re still lamenting the hour lost this past weekend due to Daylight Saving Time (and will be for the next week. Or two).

So if you want to know who to blame, here it is: Kaiser Wilhelm II.

While Benjamin Franklin (starting in 1784) and British builder William Willett (beginning in 1907) were the first champions of daylight saving time measures, Germany was the first to actually adopt it on April 6, 1916, as a wartime measure. Other European countries—and eventually the United States—followed suit.

The U.S. initially took a not-so-fast approach, however. The New York Times characterized daylight saving time as “the Kaiser’s Trick Hour.” The Saturday Evening Post mused, “Why not ‘save summer’ by having June begin at the end of February?” But ultimately, America’s involvement in World War I prompted similar calls to benefit the war effort, and the U.S. adopted a national DST measure on March 19, 1918.

All of this is according to David Prerau SM ’66, PhD ’70, one of the world’s foremost authorities on DST and author of Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2005). And yes, that’s Saving, singular, not plural. I can personally vouch for the book. It’s a fascinating look at time.

And why does DST go down at 2:00 a.m.? Because in 1918, that was the time at which the fewest trains were running and would create the least confusion. One final bit of trivia: When clocks jump ahead, trains are instantly an hour behind schedule but they do their best to make up time. In the fall, when clocks are set back one hour, any Amtrak train running on time has to stop and wait one hour before resuming. So passengers in sleeper cars could wake to find their train at a dead stop—and their trip one hour longer than expected.