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Robin Williams' Death Reminds Buzz Aldrin of His Own Struggle

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Buzz Aldrin says "all Americans should awaken" to the problem of depression.Jim Seida / NBC News file

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Robin Williams' suicide has struck a chord with scores of celebrities, but the comedian's struggle against depression had a special resonance for Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, who dealt with his own twin demons of depression and alcoholism.

Aldrin issued calls for compassion via Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday:

In his 2009 memoir, "Magnificent Desolation," the 84-year-old former astronaut went into detail about the problems and pressures he faced after his return from the moon in 1969. Divorce, drinking, depression, despair — Aldrin admits to it all. In 1975, he checked in for rehab and started the long climb back to sobriety and hope.

Today, he's fired up about the future of spaceflight, and this year's 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing has given a boost to his campaign to revitalize the space program. In an interview last month with NBC News, Aldrin acknowledged that star power can help turn a spotlight on serious issues — whether we're talking about going to Mars or addressing the scourge of depression.

"This country is enamored with celebrities," Aldrin observed.

Williams occasionally used his star power to boost the space effort — the best example is the "Good Morning, Discovery" wakeup call he recorded for a space shuttle crew in 1988. Give this video a listen — and bid farewell to one of television's best-loved space aliens. Godspeed, Robin Williams!

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