Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, a consistent champion of space exploration, and one of America’s favorite cool grandpas, was medically evacuated from Antarctica Thursday morning. He was part of an expedition hosted by the South Pole luxury tour company White Desert, a trip that has so far been well-catalogued by charming photos on Aldrin’s Twitter account.
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) November 27, 2016
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) November 29, 2016
Age has not dampened the 86-year-old’s enthusiasm for adventure and exploration, but it has weakened his health. A statement issued by White Desert detailed that Aldrin’s condition had "deteriorated" and that he had been rushed from the tour site to McMurdo Station, a US research station and the largest community in Antarctica.
Aldrin was declared "stable" by McMurdo’s medical team and then transferred to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he will remain overnight. White Desert’s most recent statement described Aldrin as having "fluid in his lungs but is responding well to antibiotics and being kept overnight for observation."
Other venerated celebrities taken from us this year include David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, and most recently Florence Henderson and Harper Lee. Buzz Aldrin is older than any of them save for Palmer and Lee but his sudden illness came as a shock due to his legendary vitality.
As an icon of space and science, Aldrin is understandably popular online. Twitter users both famous and obscure have rushed to send their well wishes to Aldrin, and pleas of mercy from the cursed year that holds him hostage.
— Zach Weinersmith (@ZachWeiner) December 1, 2016
— Katie Mack (@AstroKatie) December 1, 2016
— Psylah Chesnokov (@psylah) December 1, 2016
It is our hope that Aldrin will make a full recovery. He is now among only seven people alive who have walked on the moon. Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon, passed away in 2012. Pete Conrad, who was third, passed away in 1999. No man has walked on the moon since the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.