RAF Lakenheath staged a special mission to enable world renown scientist Prof Stephen Hawking to visit.
Prof Hawking, director of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, had previously wanted to visit the base to scatter the ashes of a friend, a retired USAF Master Sergeant,but was unwell. He has a form of Motor Neurone Disease.
Then last week, days before the professor’s 72nd birthday, the base’s RAF commander Sqn Ldr Jerry Neild had a late night call saying Prof Hawking was well enough to visit.
Despite the short notice, USAF and Ministry of Defence personnel made the visit happen. The next afternoon base security staff were ‘astonished’ to see Prof Hawking, who holds the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, welcomed by Sq Ldr Neild and Col. Kyle Robinson, 48th Fighter Wing commander.
After touring the base he visited a Protected Aircraft Shelter, to see an F-15E Strike Eagle. Master Sgt. Patrick Robison, who helped organise the visit, said: “We were in awe of Hawking and were truly honoured to meet him. It was an experience that I will always remember.”
Prof Hawking told Sq Ldr Neild he was taken aback by the intelligence of the airmen and the responsibility they have to bear.