Lukas Pilkey was so excited last week he could have leaped over the moon.
The Shiloh 6-year-old got to meet one of his heroes — retired Air Force Col. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
“It was really cool,” Lukas said with an ear-to-ear smile while donning a T-shirt with an astronaut on it.
Lukas, his parents, Greg and Aerica Pilkey, and Aerica’s dad, Mike Dreps, stood in line for over three hours on Wednesday, Nov. 15 to get into the Center for Global Citizenship at St. Louis University to hear the famous astronaut speak. Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, addressed a crowd of about 1,000 people, mostly SLU students.
“There was a limited number of general public spots, so we didn’t even know if we were going to get in or not. Then, we were of the last four people let in,” Aerica said.
But Lukas and his family did more than just listen the Apollo 11 legend speak from afar — they got to spend quality time with Buzz.
Lukas insisted on wearing his Apollo 11 commander Halloween costume to the event. It was a good wardrobe choice. It caught Aldrin’s eye.
“A SLU student came over to us and said, ‘Buzz wants to meet you,’ pointing to Lukas,” Aerica said.
Lukas, a first-grader at Shiloh Elementary, loves to spend time at the O’Fallon Public Library learning and reading about space and science. Though his explorations of the universe are limited to books and videos, his mother said he dreams of one day being able to travel among the stars.
“Space and being an astronaut are important things for Lukas,” she said.
During their meeting, Lukas told his hero about his future plans.
“I’ll be the second person to walk on Mars for you, Buzz,” Lukas said told Aldrin.
It was a dream the Aldrin, a veteran combat fighter who also has a doctorate degree in astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, encouraged.
“He told him, ‘You are our future, so you need to keep studying hard. You’ll only be 14 by 2025, but by 2035, you’ll be 24, and maybe you’ll be going to Mars,’ ” Aerica said.
But it wasn’t all shop talk. During their chat, Lukas mentioned to Aldrin that his favorite animal is a whale shark. It was another thing Lukas and the 87-year-old Aldrin had in common.
“It was interesting, because Buzz told Lukas that he is an avid scuba diver, and he showed Lukas a photo of him swimming with one,” Aerica said. “So he learned so much, not just about space but also about science, too.”
All in all, Aerica said it was an out-of-this world experience.
“The whole thing was so thrilling and made my heart smile to see Lukas so happy. I mean, Buzz is very intelligent but, he is also very funny and down-to-earth, too. He really related with Lukas,” she said.
Still, Lukas just could help being a little star-struck, his mother said.
“He looked up at me and said slowly, ‘I am just shocked. I just met Buzz Aldrin,” she said.