Aldrin was born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, to Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Sr., a career military man, and his wife Marion Moon. He is of Scottish, Swedish, and German ancestry. After graduating from Montclair High School in 1946, Aldrin turned down a full scholarship offer from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and instead went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The nickname "Buzz" originated in childhood: the younger of his two elder sisters mispronounced "brother" as "buzzer", and this was shortened to Buzz. Aldrin made it his legal first name in 1988.
After the war, Aldrin was assigned as an aerial gunnery instructor at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, and next was an aide to the dean of faculty at the U.S. Air Force Academy (which had recently begun operations in 1955). He flew F-100 Super Sabres as a flight commander at Bitburg Air Base, Germany in the 22nd Fighter Squadron. Aldrin then earned his Sc.D. degree in Astronautics from MIT. His graduate thesis was Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous. On completion of his doctorate, he was assigned to the Gemini Target Office of the Air Force Space Systems Division in Los Angeles, and finally to the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Aldrin is a Presbyterian. After landing on the moon, Aldrin radioed Earth: "I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way." He received Communion on the surface of the Moon, but kept it secret because of a lawsuit brought by atheist activist Madalyn Murray O'Hair over the reading of Genesis on Apollo 8. Aldrin, a church elder, used a pastor's home Communion kit given to him by Dean Woodruff and recited words used by his pastor at Webster Presbyterian Church. Webster Presbyterian Church, a local congregation in Webster, Texas (a Houston suburb near the Johnson Space Center) possesses the chalice used for communion on the moon, and commemorates the event annually on the Sunday closest to July 20.
A spacecraft traveling on an Aldrin cycler trajectory would pass near the planets Earth and Mars on a regular (cyclic) basis. The Aldrin cycler is an example of a Mars cycler. He was also instrumental in the idea of training of astronauts underwater in order to better prepare them for the intricate space walks and duties of maintenance while in space.