Buzz Aldrin, 80-year-old veteran of the first moon landingby Apollo 11, is facing a much more down-to-Earth challenge as a contestant onthe new season of TV's "Dancing With the Stars."
Aldrin ? the second man to stepfoot on the moon ? will be one of 11 contestants who pair up withprofessional dancers to compete in the series' weekly dance-offs. The formerastronaut says he was never a big dancer, so has a lot of catching up to do.
"I'm not known for that agility," Aldrin toldSPACE.com. "I'm one of those people who need continued exposure. Whetherit's flying a spacecraft or trying something out on the dance floor, it takes awhile to really get comfortable with it."
Aldrin has already started learning his dance for thepremiere episode to air March 22 ? the cha-cha. And he is working on the nextweek's dance, the foxtrot, with his dance partner Ashly DelGrosso-Costa.
"She's a dream," he said. Costa is even planning toaccompany Aldrin on a trip to New Zealand this week for a space conference, sothe two can fit in some dance practice on the road.
Though he'll be up against some stiff competition, includingU.S. Olympic figure skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek, Aldrin says he plans toplay hard.
"I wouldn?t have gotten into the space program if Iwasn?t competitive," he said.
But the spacepioneer's primary motivation for joining the show is to help bring NASA andthe U.S. human spaceflight program to the front of popular consciousness.
"Until there's a spectacular success or failure, the spaceprogram is not on everyone's lips," Aldrin said. ?Dancing with theStars? has ?a very large audience of millions of followers and I felt that itwould really be nice if the space program had that large an audience."
He said popularizing space is important for inspiring youngpeople to pursue science, technology and math.
In keeping with this goal, Aldrin also recently taped aguest-star appearance on an episode of the sitcom "30 Rock."
"That was very enjoyable with Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin,"he said.
Aldrin hopes to tailor his "Dancing With theStars" experience to reflect his background ? perhaps by dancing to amoon-themed song at some point.
And there should be secondary benefits from the experience.
"I'm anticipating a renewed smaller belt size shortly,"he said.