Go 'ThunderBuzz'! Buzz Aldrin Takes to the Sky with USAF Thunderbirds Team

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin jokingly called himself "ThunderBuzz" on Twitter after flying with members of the USAF Thunderbirds on April 2. (Image credit: USAF Thunderbirds)

Buzz Aldrin, who became the second man to walk on the moon in 1969, once again made history last weekend. The world-famous octogenarian flew with the Thunderbirds at the Melbourne Air & Space Show in Melbourne, Florida, on Sunday (April 2).

Aldrin, 87, was able to take part in the demonstration despite the difficult physical requirements for pilots, a press statement noted. Watch the video here.

"It's always a thrill to get back in the cockpit of an Air Force jet," Aldrin said in an e-mailed statement to Space.com. "Especially with a bunch of highly talented jet jockeys like the Thunderbirds." [In Pictures: Buzz Aldrin Soars with the USAF Thunderbirds]

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin jokingly called himself "ThunderBuzz" on Twitter after flying with members of the USAF Thunderbirds on April 2. (Image credit: USAF Thunderbirds)

"Call me ThunderBuzz!" Aldrin said on Twitter following his flight. "I don't think the @AFThunderbirds are going to let me keep the F-16 with my name on it, though."The Thunderbirds is an air show demonstration squadron that's assigned to the 57th Wing, at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The team has been flying since 1953, making it one of the oldest flying aerobatic teams in the world. The team members perform in the United States and around the world.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the cockpit of one of the USAF Thunderbird jets. Aldrin flew with the demonstration team April 2. (Image credit: USAF Thunderbirds)

Aldrin, a retired colonel, joined West Point in 1947 and was an aide to the dean of faculty when the U.S. Air Force Academy began. Aldrin chose to become a fighter pilot after he received his commission, and he flew over 66 combat missions in the Korean War.

Prior to joining NASA in 1963, Aldrin did a tour of duty in Germany and went on to earn a doctorate of science in astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Aldrin was in the third group of NASA trainees when he was selected to become an astronaut. He flew on Gemini 12, where he demonstrated new techniques for spacewalks. Aldrin completed his second, and final, spaceflight as a member of the Apollo 11 team.

The USAF Thunderbirds flew over the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida April 2, 2017. The Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket was assembled inside the building. Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin joined the team for a demonstration flight. (Image credit: USAF Thunderbirds)

Aldrin remains an advocate for human spaceflight, especially regarding future human settlements on Mars. He has authored several books about his spaceflight exploits, lent his name to a couple of computer games, and, most recently, moved into virtual reality. 

A virtual-reality exhibit featuring Buzz Aldrin recently opened at the Kennedy Space Center, and another depicting a Mars settlement is now available for home virtual reality platforms.

Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin (in gray suit) poses with members of the USAF Thunderbirds. Aldrin participated in a flight with the Thunderbirds on April 2. (Image credit: USAF Thunderbirds)

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time, freelancing since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace