Buzz Aldrin was 39 years old at the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. And yet somehow, his life has gotten bigger since then.

The now-86-year-old just won his first-ever March Madness bracket in a friendly bet against ESPN analyst Dick Vitale — despite the fact that, as he told Upworthy, "I didn't know what a bracket was when I filled it out!"

That might sound like a ridiculous non sequitur factoid (it is), but it just goes to show that even the second man to walk on the moon is still discovering new things.


Buzz has seen a lot in the nearly 50 years since that fateful day that launched him into orbit and infamy; he's even written several books about it (the latest of which just came out last week). Here are just a few of his most out-of-this-world memories — both the times when he felt higher than the moon and the moments when he felt the exact opposite.

Neil Armstrong may have been the first to place his foot down, but Buzz wins first place for general awesomeness. Photo from NASA/Getty Images.

1. On his 80th birthday, Buzz took a ride on a whale shark in the Galapagos.

Apparently, the tour guide had specifically instructed the group not to touch any marine life during their scheduled scuba session. But like no one puts baby in the corner, no one tells Buzz Aldrin not to ride a freaking whale shark.

"Holding onto the dorsal fin of a whale shark, 60 feet underwater," Buzz told Upworthy with a laugh. "It was maybe 40 feet long. It was incredible."


Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

2. He took the first selfie in space way before selfies were cool.

"Clearly, there is a fetish among human beings about [being] first," Buzz once said in an interview with The Telegraph, debunking any perceived jealousy that people thought he might feel about being the second person to walk on the moon, just moments after Neil Armstrong.

That being said, he can still claim several other interstellar firsts — from the selfie above (during Gemini 12 in 1966) to his controversial lunar communion to, yes, peeing on the moon. I mean, hey, someone had to be the first to go.

3. Believe it or not, he was actually rejected from the astronaut program the first time around.

That's right — Buzz almost never got to go to space at all because he had never trained as a test pilot (though he was a fighter pilot during the Korean War). It's a good thing NASA learned the error of their ways and lifted the requirement the next time around.


Also he's probably the only person with enough nerd cred to get away with making a "Star Trek" symbol at a "Transformers" movie premiere, 'cause Buzz DGAF. Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images.

4. He helped pioneer the underwater training system for spacewalking — and broke an early record for the longest freestyle spacewalk.

Buzz was the sixth person to ever walk in space, with a record-breaking duration of 2 hours and 29 minutes on his first trip out. He was also the first astronaut to complete all the objectives of his extravehicular activity. (That's the fancy official terminology for "doing stuff outside of a spaceship.")


Yes, that's a promotional photo for AXE body spray. 'Cause why the hell not? Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images.

5. And after he retired from NASA, Buzz found work as a … used car salesman?

Buzz has been fairly candid over the years about his general frustrations with being a poorly rewarded public figure. "Most people who have received a degree of public recognition find themselves financially pretty well off. Doesn't happen to be the case with astronauts," he said in a 2009 interview with CNN Radio.

To make some extra cash after he retired from NASA and the Air Force, Buzz spent six months or so selling cars in Beverly Hills.

Except he never actually managed to sell a single car.


He's also expressed mixed feelings about his likeness being used as inspiration for Buzz Lightyear, without the benefit of any kind of licensing deal. Photo by Garth Vaughan/Disney via Getty Images.

6. That's due in part to the fact that Buzz has grappled with depression his entire life.

Depression runs in the Aldrin blood. His grandfather died from suicide and so did his mother — just a few weeks before the Apollo 11 lunar mission. Her name was Marion Moon.

With impending fear that his best days were already behind him after he left government service, Buzz hit a major low point in the '70s.

But of course, there's no cure for depression; it haunted him well before the lunar landing, and it continues to loom to this day. "I still see a shrink every couple of weeks," he said in a recent interview with AARP. "When you're depressed, you're convinced it will never end. But when you're on top of things, you're convinced that will never end."


Buzz reading from "Magnificent Desolation" at the London Literature Festival in 2009. Photo by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images.

7. And today, he's been sober for nearly 40 years.

In addition to depression, Buzz also struggled with alcoholism until the late 1970s. These two issues are separate but often intertwined as one can exacerbate the other. "More and more, I turned to alcohol to ease my mind and see me through the rough times," Buzz wrote in "Magnificent Desolation."

To this day, he acknowledges his drinking as a major factor in the breakup of his first marriage; and he only got into AA because the woman who became his second wife threatened to dump him if he didn't.


Buzz with his third wife, Lois Driggs Cannon, at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2011. The couple divorced later that same year. Photo by Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images.

Buzz Aldrin's incredible life is a powerful reminder that the highest highs and lowest lows often come hand in hand — but that doesn't make you any less of a Real American Badass™.

There's a certain poetry to the fact that the second man on the moon could also struggle with something like depression. But that notion also distracts from the fact that depression and alcoholism are real diseases, and diseases don't make exceptions for exceptional lives.

"I haven't quit working to the best that I know how to do," Buzz said at the end of our conversation, before going on excitedly about the prospect of colonizing Mars, the future of solar energy, and his plans to visit the North and South Poles (along with a few cryptic references to a "submersible the size of the Titanic").


Look at that face. Do you think that man is kidding? Oh, he's dead serious. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/Getty Images.

Even at 86, he's still keeping himself busy, searching for the next great horizon.

And that's perhaps the most important takeaway from Buzz Aldrin's life story: Sometimes the best thing to do is to just keep moving.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less