If only "Dancing with the Stars" were more about the stars than about the dancing. Then moonwalker Buzz Aldrin may have very well topped the judges' scoreboard at the end of Monday's night's two-hour show premiere on ABC.
"I remember sitting at home in England watching you walking on the moon and being amazed, not only at the technology, but the braveness of you guys for going up there for the first time," judge Len Goodman gushed after watching Aldrin with his partner Ashly Costa dance the Cha-cha-cha to The Spinners' song "Cupid/I've Loved You For A Long Time."
"How can I possibly criticize a hero and a legend?" asked fellow judge Bruno Tonioli.
"You know what is great about this show is that it inspires people at home to get out and do things that they might be afraid of," added judge Carrie Ann Inaba. "You inspired a ton of people tonight."
Alas, inspiration aside, Aldrin's routine left the judges less than impressed.
"I want to commend you for your bravery for coming out tonight," Goodman, a British professional ballroom dancer, remarked. "Unfortunately, I cannot give marks for bravery, just the dancing, and that wasn't too good unfortunately."
"You did a cha-cha-cha, it was actually a cha-cha-cha [but] it looked like you still had your moon boots on," said Italian choreographer Tonioli. "Let's say it is going to get better next week."
Tonioli and Inaba gave Aldrin a score of 5 each. Goodman awarded the moonwalker a 4, giving Aldrin 14 points out of a possible 30, which was the lowest score of the evening.
Pussycat Dolls lead singer Nicole Scherzinger scored the highest with 25 points, with gold medal figure skater Evan Lysacek close behind at 23 points.
A moonwalker moonwalks
That's not to say everyone agreed with the judges.
Even before he danced, Aldrin was cheered on by a videotaped by fellow astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
"Buzz, we know you're an original moonwalker but can you still do this move?" Expedition 23 flight engineer T.J. Creamer said as he performed a weightless back flip. "All the best from the International Space Station!"
The studio audience applauded the video from space and Aldrin's dance moves.
A cutaway shot revealed that among those cheering was actor Tim Allen. Though it wasn't stated, Allen voices the animated "Toy Story" astronaut Buzz Lightyear, who was named after the real moonwalker-turned-dancer.
Aldrin also drew the attention of those watching the live broadcast on TV, as became evident when his name began trending on the Twitter online social network.
Many of the 140-character notes joked about Aldrin doing the moonwalk, the dance move made famous by the late singer Michael Jackson.
The joke didn't escape the show's producers either.
At the start of the broadcast, host Tom Bergeron referred to Aldrin as "an American icon who moonwalked years before anyone did it to music."
For his part, Aldrin didn't disappoint: he did indeed perform the moonwalk, though he gave it his own style.
"Was that a little moonwalk I saw?" judge Inaba asked the astronaut.
"That was," confirmed Aldrin with a smile.
Down but not out
Aldrin will have another chance to improve his score when he dances again next week. The scores from the first two weeks will then be combined.
The judges' scores however are not the only input that will decide if Aldrin goes on in the competition. Viewers vote for their favorites by phone, text message and on ABC's website.
The contestant with the lowest combined score from the judges and viewer votes is eliminated during the "results show," a separate broadcast on the Tuesday following the competition night.
Costa, a professional dancer who performed on "Dancing with the Stars" first three seasons, described what it was that concerned her about Aldrin during a taped segment of Monday's live show.
"For an 80-year-old, Buzz is in great shape physically. I'm more concerned about him memorizing all these steps."
Aldrin, who appeared to be counting his steps out loud as he danced, admitted it was a difficulty.
"It used to take two times to remember something, now it's 20," he said, but warned about counting him out.
"People may have a tendency to underestimate me," said Aldrin, "but watch out, here I come."