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Aldrin, Thunderbirds buzz Kennedy Space Center

The Thunderbirds, with Buzz Aldrin in the back seat of one of the Lockheed F-16D Fighting Falcons, fly past the Kennedy Space Center

The Thunderbirds, with Buzz Aldrin in the back seat of one of the Lockheed F-16D Fighting Falcons, fly over the Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: Air Force Thunderbirds

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Just months after his trip to the South Pole, 87-year-old Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon, participated in a flight with the Thunderbirds, the air demonstration squadron of the United States Air Force.

Aldrin hopped into the back seat of a Lockheed F-16D Fighting Falcon on the morning of April 2, 2017, before the Thunderbirds’ display at the Air and Space Show in Melbourne, Florida. Aldrin’s flight comes as the Air Force celebrates its 70th year.

“Good to get back in the cockpit,” Aldrin tweeted. “I could get used to this.”

The “ambassadors in blue,” as the Thunderbirds are referred to, took Aldrin in a flight around the installations of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. They flew in tight formation over Launch Complex 39A, the starting point for the Apollo 11 mission that took Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins to the Moon in 1969.

Before being selected by NASA to join the Astronaut Corps, Aldrin was an Air Force pilot. He logged over 3,500 hours of flying time in jets and helicopters, including flying 66 combat missions in North American F-86 Sabres while on duty in Korea where he was able to shoot down two enemy Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “Fagot” aircraft.

This flight also allowed Aldrin to set another record. He became the oldest person to ever fly with the Air Force Flight Demonstration Team.

Aldrin at Air Show

Buzz Aldrin wears his “Get Your Ass to Mars” T-shirt at the Melbourne Air and Space Show. Photo Credit: Victor Amaya / SpaceFlight Insider

A few hours after his flight, Aldrin also attended the Thunderbirds full air demonstration, arriving at the show’s center sporting his now famous “Get Your Ass To Mars” T-shirt. He sat next to his family and scanned the sky to follow every maneuver as the Thunderbird pilots displayed their skills and jets’ capabilities.

After the show ended, Aldrin stood close to the ramp and saluted each of the Thunderbird pilots as they taxied their aircraft back to the hangars.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the Thunderbirds said it was an honor to have Aldrin join the team.

“In 1969, Buzz Aldrin broke barriers and set foot on the Moon,” The Thunderbirds post reads. “He is a true American hero and pioneer. We are proud of his accomplishments and the legacy he represents every day.”

Thunderbirds at Melbourne

The Thunderbirds fly in formation over the Melbourne Air and Space Show. Photo Credit: Victor Amaya / SpaceFlight Insider

 

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Victor is a self-described aviation nut, space geek, and pilot. Watch this space for a more detailed bio coming soon.

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