In 1969, Buzz Aldrin became the second person to walk on the moon. And in 2016, he set another record — as the oldest man to visit the South Pole.
But while altitude sickness caused the 86-year-old former astronaut to be medically evacuated from his historic trip, Aldrin said the journey was “worth it.”
Appearing on Today for his first television interview since being hospitalized after his trip, a recovered Aldrin said that despite his health scare, he never thought about abandoning his mission.
“When turning back is about as difficult as pressing on, you press on because you’ve got an objective, especially when they tell me I just set a record,” Aldrin told Al Roker while chatting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “The oldest guy to the South Pole. See, now it was worth it, really.”
Aldrin was visiting Antarctica with a group hosted by luxury tourism operator White Desert, alongside his son, Andrew. They had reached an elevation of 9,000 feet when Aldrin started showing signs of illness.
“I got out of breath,” Aldrin said. “You know, nothing new except I felt a little more concentrated. It’s cold. You’ve got a lot of heavy stuff, and there’s not much room to breathe up there.”
He was evacuated on the first available flight from McMurdo Station, a research center in Antarctica run by the National Science Foundation, to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand.
An examination at a local hospital found Aldrin had fluid in his lungs, but Aldrin responded well to antibiotics and was said to be in stable condition and “good spirits.” He passed the time, like many Americans, by keeping up with the Kardashians.
“I just admire that guy so much, even though he was a Marine,” Aldrin told Roker. “But he knew how to fly that airplane, I could tell you that.”