Space ace Buzz Aldrin has admitted glimpsing a UFO during his journey to the Moon – but insisted it was not an extraterrestrial visitation.
The second man on the Moon answered questions during a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) session, touching on missions to Mars, aliens, and the dubious accuracy of the film Gravity.
Aldrin's AMA was designed to raise awareness of the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landings in 1969. The former astronaut, who described himself as a "global space statesman", also used the forum to call for citizens to back the allocation of research funds to NASA.
He called for humanity to focus on the "monumental achievement" of sending a manned expedition to Mars, although he also insisted that no one on this "suicide mission" should ever expect to come back to earth.
With a nod to the vast array of people who believe extra-terrestrials are among us, Aldrin described seeing a strange object during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
"I observed a light out the window that appeared to be moving alongside us. There were many explanations of what that could be, other than another spacecraft from another country or another world - it was either the rocket we had separated from, or the 4 panels that moved away when we extracted the lander from the rocket and we were nose to nose with the two spacecraft. So in the close vicinity, moving away, were 4 panels. And I feel absolutely convinced that we were looking at the Sun reflected off of one of these panels. Which one? I don't know. So technically, the definition could be 'unidentified'."
He admitted seeing the craft in an interview some years later, sparking all manner of theories about a cover up.
"The UFO people in the United States were very very angry with me, that i had not given them the information," he continued. "It was not an alien. Extraordinary observations require extraordinary evidence. That's what Carl Sagan said. There may be aliens in our Milky Way galaxy, and there are billions of other galaxies. The probability is almost CERTAIN that there is life somewhere in space. It was not that remarkable, that special, that unusual, that life here on earth evolved gradually, slowly, to where we are today."
Aldrin went on to say the decision to allow Neil Armstrong to descend onto the moon first was taken based on the relative ranking of the two astronauts.
"The decision that was made was absolutely correct as far as who went out first, symbolically," he said. "I was not the commander, I was a junior person, so once both were outside, I followed my leader, because we (NASA) had not put together detailed jobs of people outside.:
"The decision wasn't up to me, or Neil, it was up to people much higher up in NASA," he continued.
Conspiracy nuts flocked to the AMA, with some attacking Aldrin as a "coward" for failing to admit the Moon landings were fake.
One redditor later claimed he had been banned from Reddit temporarily after asking Aldrin how NASA transmitted video and audio back to earth.
However, tin hatters might be disappointed to hear the real reason: "I also replied to a couple of comments with a link to Buzz punching Bart Sibrel in the face, as well as an assertion that it might not actually be Buzz Aldrin doing the AMA," the redditor confessed.
The offending footage of Buzz bopping Bart in the chops is on YouTube.
This being the internet, one wag took the opportunity to gently troll the great man during his AMA. "Hey Mr. Aldrin," he wrote. "Have you heard this joke before?
"I was the second man on the Moon. Neil before me." ®