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Buzz Aldrin at Apollo/Saturn V Center
Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin check out the engines on a Saturn V rocket at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “I’m feeling better and my rocket is ready to launch,” he tweeted. (Buzz Aldrin Photo via Twitter)

Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin made light of what some might consider a close brush with death during an interview that aired today on NBC’s “Today” show – but he made a serious point as well.

A medical emergency at the South Pole forced Aldrin’s evacuation from the South Pole during a tourism trek on Nov. 30. “I got out of breath,” the 86-year-old told interviewer Al Roker at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “You know, that’s nothing new, except it’s a little more concentrated.”

Aldrin suffered from respiratory problems associated with Antarctica’s cold temperatures and high altitude. “Not much air to breathe up there,” he said. He was airlifted to a hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand, for a week of recuperation.

It didn’t sound as if he had any regrets.

“When turning back is about as difficult as pressing on, you press on, because you’ve got an objective,” Aldrin said. “Especially when they tell me that I just set a record – the oldest guy to the South Pole. See, now it was worth it, really!”

During last week’s trip back to the States, Aldrin learned that Mercury astronaut John Glenn had passed away at the age of 95. The two met each other back in 1953, when they were both fighter pilots in the Korean War. Aldrin was in the Air Force, Glenn was in the Marines.

“Typical all-American guy … Admired that guy so much, even though he was a Marine,” Aldrin joked. “But he knew how to fly that airplane, I could tell you that.”

Glenn is due to lie in state in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda on Friday, and on Saturday his casket is to be carried through downtown Columbus in a processional leading to Ohio State University. Video from the public funeral service at OSU will be streamed online.

A private burial service is planned at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Will Aldrin be in on at least some of the ceremonies? He’s not likely to pass them up due to health concerns. “We’re getting back in the swing of things!” his manager, Christina Korp, tweeted on Tuesday. “When @TheRealBuzz decides to get well, he does it with a vengeance.”

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