File this under “earth oddity,” perhaps.
Buzz Aldrin, the famed former NASA astronaut who was the second man to walk on the moon, had to be evacuated from a personal expedition to the South Pole on Thursday after exhibiting signs of altitude sickness.
But in a twist that, well, blows our minds, Aldrin landed at a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he was treated by none other than … a David Bowie.
The physician shares his name, of course, with the famed singer David Bowie, who frequently morphed into space-loving alter egos for his songs and music videos. In July 1969, the musician released “Space Oddity,” a hit song that imagined the haunting journey of fictional astronaut “Major Tom” after losing contact with ground control.
Nine days later, the Apollo 11 successfully landed on the moon, and Aldrin and fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first humans to walk on its surface.
The musician David Bowie died earlier this year, on Jan. 10, two days after his 69th birthday. But were he still on Earth, it’s likely the “Ziggy Stardust” singer would have approved of Aldrin’s coincidentally-named doctor.
The 86-year-old Aldrin had been on a personal trip to Antarctica with the White Desert tour company, and arrived at the South Pole on Nov. 29, according to Korp. Aldrin was scheduled to stay there until Dec. 8 but his “condition deteriorated” shortly after arrival, and he was evacuated on the first available flight out of the South Pole.
Aldrin landed in New Zealand early Friday morning local time, after what Korp said was a “grueling” evacuation. The former astronaut released a statement Sunday saying he was recovering nicely at a hospital in Christchurch, the largest city on the country’s south island.
The trip to the South Pole was to be “the capstone of his personal exploration achievements,” as well as a chance to experience and study conditions that were more similar to Mars than any other place on Earth, Aldrin wrote.
“I didn’t get as much time to spend with the scientists as I would have liked to discuss the research they’re doing in relation to Mars,” he said in the statement, adding that he would continue to pursue research toward a permanent settlement on Mars. “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”
The National Science Foundation, which covered the humanitarian medical evacuation flight, has since acknowledged that Aldrin now holds the record for the oldest man to reach the South Pole, according to Korp.
“He’ll be insufferable now,” she tweeted last week as a joke, along with a photo of a grinning Aldrin in his New Zealand hospital bed.
Aldrin, who will turn 87 in January, has not slowed down since his historic NASA missions. He traveled to see the Titanic in 1996 and to the North Pole in 1998, and remains one of the most outspoken advocates for space exploration and research. (Last year, Aldrin posted photos of himself wearing a shirt that said “Get Your Ass to Mars.”)
The feisty, smartphone-loving Aldrin has also remained very much in the public eye, once making an appearance on one season of “Dancing With the Stars” – where he did not last long but, of course, snuck in a moonwalk. The animated movie character Buzz Lightyear in the “Toy Story” franchise was reportedly inspired by Aldrin.
On Monday, Korp reported that David Bowie had declared Aldrin might be ready to take off again — for home — in one or two days.