Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, will undergo a mental competency examination as part of a painful lawsuit over control of his legacy.
Aldrin, 88, has long been among the most colorful of NASA’s astronauts — frank about his struggles with depression and alcohol after his space agency career ended, and forthright about his hopes for future human space exploration. He has emerged as a notable supporter of manned missions to Mars in the last decade, most recently at a White House space event with President Trump last year.
But a lawsuit he initiated this month has burst into public view, alleging “improprieties” involving fraudulent transfers of hundreds of thousands of dollars by his son Andrew Aldrin, head of the private Buzz Aldrin Enterprises firm and the nonprofit Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation, and Christina Korp, an official with both organizations. The foundation, which gives grants for science and math educational projects, has assets of $240,000, according to its most recent tax documents.
“Let it be clear that every one of these allegations are products of the increased confusion and memory loss that Dad has demonstrated in recent years,” said a statement by Andrew and his sister Janice Aldrin released Tuesday. “The time has come to recognize where the elder exploitation is truly occurring and address the flawed foundation of the lawsuit.”
They claim to have asked to keep the lawsuit private, but their father’s attorney made it public “to stir undue sympathy and support for the ridiculous lawsuit that they have brought on Dad’s behalf.”
In response to the suit, the siblings are asking that he undergo a mental competency exam, and Buzz Aldrin is reportedly complying with the request. His attorney, Robert Bauer of Gainesville, Florida, did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
“I really felt that it really didn’t need to come to this,” Buzz said on Good Morning America on Tuesday morning. “It's the saddest thing that ever happened in my family.”
The fight over Aldrin’s legacy erupted on Twitter on June 18 when his account attacked Korp and the former astronaut Terry Virts.
That attracted concern from Aldrin’s followers:
“This isn’t the Buzz Aldrin I’ve known for the last 20 years,” NASA Watch’s Keith Cowing told BuzzFeed News. “It sounds completely different.”
Aldrin was beside Neil Armstrong for the moment when “The Eagle has landed” was first said on the moon, and pioneered many of the spacewalk techniques still used by astronauts today. He’s also known for punching a moon-landing denier who accosted him in 2002.
NASA Watch has linked the change in tone from @TheRealBuzz to the start of a new Buzz Aldrin Ventures firm, incorporated in May without his children’s involvement. A Wall Street Journal report claims that Aldrin passed a mental competency test privately administered by a UCLA medical school professor in April.
In a response to news coverage of their father’s lawsuit, the two Aldrin children have denied charges of money transfers and complaints of forcing their father to travel to Antarctica to raise funds, among other complaints. (His third child, James Aldrin, has stayed out of the fray.)