Buzz Aldrin files lawsuit against son and daughter to preserve his space legacy

Buzz Aldrin's children say their father is in cognitive decline and want a court to appoint them his guardians; the former astronaut terms it slander

                            Buzz Aldrin files lawsuit against son and daughter to preserve his space legacy
Buzz Aldrin (Getty Images)

The second human to ever walk on the Moon is facing some earthly problems in his personal life, that too from his kids.

Buzz Aldrin, the Apollo 11 astronaut who accompanied Neil Armstrong on the "giant leap for mankind" trip to the Moon, has sued his son Andy Aldrin and daughter Janice Aldrin among others, claiming that they slandered him by saying he is suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's.

Janice and Andrew Aldrin had earlier asked to be appointed his co-guardians because he's in "cognitive decline."

The suit fil ed earlier this month also names Christina Korp, a former business manager, along with a number of other foundations. The suit mentions that Buzz has been taken advantage of via a de facto guardianship that he never asked for.

However, Buzz says he's mentally fit to take his own decisions.

Ars Technica obtained the lawsuit that was filed on June 7 in a Florida judicial circuit court. The suit alleges that the 88-year-old's son conspired with Korp and used his trust accounts, personal credit cards, artifacts, and social media accounts for selfish purposes.

Additionally, it states that the aforementioned members of his family prevented him from marrying a fourth time. Buzz claims that while his family sidelined him in recent years citing dementia and Alzheimer's, they also "bullied" his romantic interests.

According to Aldrin, his children are trying to snatch away the control of his private company, Buzz Aldrin Enterprises, and his nonprofit, ShareSpace Foundation, by claiming he's being manipulated by strangers and experiencing confusion and paranoia. In a conversation with The Wall Street Journal, he said he was "blindsided" by his children's request, that was made last month in a Florida court.

The said family and Buzz Aldrin Space Foundation “have used this tactic to gain further control over (Buzz Aldrin’s) personal relationships, business contacts, and assets,” the lawsuit states.

The suit further states that Korp colluded with his son and funneled out $500,000 over the last two years from his savings account to Buzz Aldrin Enterprises and ShareSpace Foundation for their own personal use. He also claims he was forced to attend events and take endorsement deals against his will.

By filing the said lawsuit, Aldrin is seeking to gain complete access to his space memorabilia by removing his son as the controlling trustee of his estate. Due to the ongoing nature of the legal action, a spokesman for the family declined to comment on further details pertaining to the case.

Meanwhile, the 88-year-old has agreed to undergo a competency evaluation this week by three specialists appointed by the court. While accusing his family of exploitation, unjust enrichment, and breach of fiduciary trust, Aldrin told the WSJ, "Nobody is going to come close to thinking I should be under a guardianship." 

Aldrin became "hyperactive" on his verified Twitter account @TheRealBuzz, which boasts a staggering 1.4 million followers, after more than a month of radio silence. His comeback tweets included a disgruntled message directed towards Korp and Terry Virts, a fellow former astronaut who is also a client of Korp.

On June 18, Aldrin first retweeted Lisa La Bonte, who had asked Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, to call Aldrin. La Bonte and Linn LeBlanc, who were formerly associated with one of the astronaut's educational foundations, are currently believed to be taking care of Aldrin's management. In a May 2018 filing to create Buzz Aldrin Ventures LLC, La Bonte is also listed as a member.

The organization’s website says the LLC is “Buzz’s overarching holding company charged with developing strategic projects and international joint ventures that further Buzz’s vision and legacy in addition to activities formerly undertaken by Buzz Aldrin Enterprises.”

“His Twitter account suddenly became super-active and had a tweet that maligned his longtime assistant and a fellow astronaut out of nowhere,” Keith Cowing of NASA Watch told Ars Technica in a phone interview. “The tone and substance of the tweet got my attention. This is really uncharacteristic of Buzz. This is not the Buzz Aldrin I’ve known for decades.”

That being said, sources in the aerospace community have tried to convince Aldrin in recent days that his family has his best interests at heart. Aldrin, who still commands monumental respect in the industry, is frequently seen at White House space events and is a member of the Users’ Advisory Group of the National Space Council, headed by Vice President Mike Pence.

However, one of these sources told Ars Technica that Aldrin would not budge. “I told him to finish well...He doesn’t listen at all.”

“This is doing real harm to his ability to do what he wants to do,” said another person close to the astronaut. “He wants to be a player in space policy today, and what he’s engaging in right now is not helping that at all.”

Of the dozen human beings who placed their feet on the lunar surface in the late 1960s and early 1970s, only four remain alive, and this should call for a celebration and a moment to cement the spaceman's legacy. With Neil Armstrong passing away in 2012, Buzz, currently the most famous living astronaut in the world, is likely to steal the limelight at the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, which is due next year.

Having said that, Andy Aldrin and Jan Aldrin, Buzz's children, released the following statement about their father's lawsuit on June 23:

"We are deeply disappointed and saddened by the unjustified lawsuit that has been brought against us individually and against the foundation that we have built together as a family to carry on Dad’s legacy for generations to come. 

"When we established the current structure several years ago, it was done so at Buzz’s request and with his full support. If nothing else, our family is resilient and our ability to work together to solve problems and accomplish great things is strong. 

"We love and respect our father very much and remain hopeful that we can rise above this situation and recover the strong relationship that built this foundation in the first place. 

"We will not be commenting further on the lawsuit and ask your understanding and respect for our family privacy at this extremely difficult time.”

The 88-year-old's family foundation says its mission is to promote space exploration, STEM education, and protect Aldrin's legacy. According to IRS documents, the foundation reported net assets of about $240,000 in 2016.

“We are determined to protect Buzz’s personal reputation and professional legacy, while also protecting his ability to remain self-sustaining financially,” the foundation said.