Buzz Aldrin was the talk of the Melbourne Air & Space Show on Sunday, with the Moon walking astronaut set to take flight with the Air Force Demonstration Squadron, the Thunderbirds, for the first time at the age of 87.
The air show, which was held at Orlando Melbourne International Airport drew in thousands of onlookers with dozens of aircraft on display to compliment colonel Aldrin’s record breaking flight. As it turns out, it was also a multi-faceted festivity, with the Air Force celebrating its’ 70th year of existence on top of Buzz Aldrin’s historic attempt.
At 87, the retired Air Force colonel spends most of his time in Florida, where he works with the state’s Institute of Technology. One of the heroes from the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that landed on the Moon, Aldrin was wearing a t-shirt which read “Get your ass to Mars!” under his flight suit, a ringing endorsements of NASA and others’ attempts to launch a mission to the Red Planet in the coming years. NASA itself has already decided on three possible landing locations for an unmanned Mars 2020 mission, with speculation mounting that there are also some plans for future manned missions in the books.
Whilst the nod towards the space industry’s continuing efforts to expand its’ exploration was noted, Buzz Aldrin was in Melbourne, Florida to fly with some of the leading figures in the United States Air Force: the Thunderbirds. A famous squad with a rich history, the Thunderbirds tour around the country performing aerobatic formations and manoeuvres in their distinctively marked aircraft.
Comprising of twelve officers and a hundred and twenty support personnel, the USAF’s Demonstration Squadron is made up of six F-16C Fighting Falcons and two F-16D Fighting Falcon aircraft. The aviators themselves are known for their flying prowess and rigorous physical requirements, making Buzz Aldrin’s inclusion into the squad not only a tremendous honour, but a testament to the colonel’s shape and ability.
Due to their popularity within the aviation world, Aldrin and the Thunderbirds were the final act of the air show. Colonel Aldrin, the pilot of the Apollo 11 mission, was sat in the navigator’s seat during his historic flight, as the Thunderbirds flew upwards of 700 miles per hour for over 20 minutes, officially making Buzz Aldrin the oldest person to fly with the squad. Whilst there are no words as to what the famed astronaut will try his hand at next, don’t be surprised if you see him working with NASA on future missions.