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Thomas Patten "Tom" Stafford (born September 17, 1930), (Lt Gen, USAF, Ret.), is an American former Air Force officer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut.

Thomas P. Stafford
Thomas Stafford.jpg
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired
Born (1930-09-17) September 17, 1930 (age 87)
Weatherford, Oklahoma, U.S.
Other names
Thomas Patten Stafford
Other occupation
Test pilot, consultant
USNA, B.S. 1952
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General, USAF
Time in space
21d 03h 42m
Selection 1962 NASA Group 2
Missions Gemini 6A, Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, ASTP
Mission insignia
Gemini 6A patch.png Ge09Patch orig.png Apollo-10-LOGO.png ASTP patch.png
Retirement November 1, 1975
Awards Dfc-usa.jpg Presidential Medal of Freedom Congressional Space Medal of Honor NASA Distinguished Service Medal.jpg Russia-Space-Medal.png

After graduating from the United States Naval Academy, Stafford commissioned in the United States Air Force, flying the F-86 Sabre prior becoming a test pilot. He was selected to become an astronaut in 1962, and flew aboard Gemini 6A and Gemini 9. In 1969, Stafford was the Commander of Apollo 10, the second manned mission to orbit the Moon and the first to fly a Lunar Module in lunar orbit, descending to an altitude of nine miles.

In 1975, Stafford was the commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight, the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. Stafford was a Brigadier General at the time of the mission, becoming the first general officer to fly in space, as well as the first member of his Naval Academy class to pin on the first, second and third stars of a general officer. He made six rendezvous in space and logged 507 hours of space flight. He has flown over 120 different types of fixed wing and rotary aircraft and three different types of spacecraft.


Early years and educationEdit

Thomas Patten Stafford was born on September 17, 1930, in Weatherford, Oklahoma to Thomas Sabert Stafford, a dentist, and Mary Ellen Stafford (née Patten), a former teacher. Thomas Sabert Stafford was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1944, and passed away on June 22, 1948. Mary Stafford remained in Weatherford until her death in August 1987. Stafford became interested in aviation following the start of World War II, as the nearby city El Reno has an Army Air Corps training base. Stafford began creating model airplanes, and had his first flight in a Piper Cub. Stafford attended Weatherford High School, where he played football and competed in mathematics competitions, and graduated in 1948.[1]:1-4, 219

In his senior year of high school, Stafford was recruited to play football and earn a Navy ROTC scholarship at the University of Oklahoma. Stafford applied to the United States Naval Academy, and was accepted to the class of 1952 alongside fellow future astronaut Jim Lovell. Stafford intended to play football for the Navy Midshipman, but received a career-ending knee injury during a preseason practice session. After his freshman year, Stafford sailed aboard the USS Missouri, where he was roommates with his future Apollo 10 Command Module Pilot, John Young. Following his second year, Stafford spent a summer at NAS Pensacola,where he was exposed to naval aviation and flew in the SNJ Trainer. On a trip home to Weatherford, Stafford began dating his future wife, Faye Shoemaker. After his third year, Stafford served aboard the USS Burdo, a destroy escorting the USS Missouri. While visiting home during his fourth year, Stafford became engaged to Faye in December 1951. In the spring of 1952, Stafford was selected in a lottery to join the US Air Force upon graduation, as the US Air Force Academy was not yet established. Stafford graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1952, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Air Force.[1]:8-13

Military serviceEdit

Prior to graduating high school, Stafford served in the 45th Infantry Division in the Oklahoma National Guard. Soon after, he transferred to the 158th Field Artillery Regiment, where he plotted targets for artillery fires.[1]:6

Stafford attended the first phase pf pilot training at Greenville AFB, San Marcos AFB, and Connally AFB, where he flew the T-6 Texan and T-33 Shooting Star. While on a training mission at San Marcos AFB, Stafford was involved in a mid-air collision with another student pilot. Stafford and his instructor were able to successfully land, but the other student pilot was killed. Stafford graduated from pilot training on September 1, 1953, and moved to Tyndall AFB for F-86 Sabre training. In 1954, Stafford was assigned to the 54th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, where he flew the F-86 mission for Arctic defense. In 1955, Stafford transferred to the 496th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Landstuhl AFB (now Ramstein AB), again flying interceptor mission in the F-86 Sabre. Additionally, Stafford served as an assistant maintenance officer, developing his interest in applying for the USAF Experimental Test Pilot School.[1]:13-24

In 1958, Stafford attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, where he finished first in his class, and received the A. B. Honts Award. After graduation, he remained at Edwards AFB as a flight instructor. While working as an instructor, Stafford created the first civilian instructor position at Test Pilot School to ensure continuity, and co-authored the Pilot's Handbook for Performance Flight Testing and the Aerodynamics Handbook for Performance Flight Testing.[2] At the end of his assignment, Stafford was accepted to Harvard Business School, and moved in September 1962. Three days after arriving at Harvard, Stafford was accepted to NASA Group Two.[1]:27-38

NASA careerEdit

In April 1962, while still working as a flight instructor, Stafford applied for the next round of astronaut selection. The required interviews and medical screenings occured over the summer of 1962 at Brooks Air Force Base and in Houston. On September 14, 1962, Stafford was selected for Astronaut Group 2, alongside 8 other future astronauts.[1]:35-40

Project GeminiEdit

Gemini 6AEdit

Stafford (left) with his Gemini 6A crewmate Wally Schirra

Stafford was originally scheduled to fly with Alan Shepard on the first manned Gemini mission, Gemini 3, but was replaced when Shepard was removed from the flight rotation after his Ménière's disease diagnosis. Stafford was paired with Wally Schirra as pilot and commander, respectively, and the pair was reassigned as the backup crew for Gemini 3, and primary crew for Gemini 6.[1]:50

The original Gemini 6 mission profile involved docking with an Agena target vehicle. On October 25, 1965, Schirra and Stafford were inside Gemini 6 before liftoff when the Agena vehicle exploded on ascent. After the original mission was cancelled, it was redesignated Gemini 6A and would rendezvous with the long-duration Gemini 7 mission. Gemini 7 lifted off on December 4, 1965. On December 12, 1965, Gemini 6A ignited, followed by an immediate engine shutdown. Schirra and Stafford did not eject, and the cause of the shutdown was found to be an electrical issue and a cap inadvertently left on a fuel line.[1]:64-72

On December 15, 1965, Gemini 6A lifted off, and rendezvoused with Gemini 7. The two spacecraft kept station for approximately 5 hours, coming within feet of each other. Upon separating, Schirra reported seeing an unidentified object flying, followed shortly by him playing Jingle Bells over the radio. Gemini 6A splashed down on December 16, and was recovered by the USS Wasp.[1]:70-76

Gemini 9Edit

Stafford (right) and Eugene Cernan arrive aboard USS Wasp after Gemini 9 on June 6, 1966

Prior to Gemini 6A, Stafford was assigned as the backup commander for Gemini 9 along with Eugene Cernan as the backup pilot, with Charlie Bassett and Elliot See as the primary crew. On February 28, 1966, both crews traveled in T-38 Talons to Lambert Field to visit the McDonell Douglas Gemini assembly facility. Bassett and See crashed on landing, and were killed immediately. Stafford and Cernan became the Gemini 9 primary crew, with Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin as their backup crew.[1]:75-82

On May 17, 1966, the Agena target vehicle went off course and was shut down prior to entering orbit. As there was no replacement Agena rocket, the new target for the mission was the Augmented Target Docket Adapter (ADTA), which successfully achieved orbit on June 1, 1966. The Gemini 9 launch, scheduled for later the same day, was cancelled due to a computer error. Gemini 9 successfully launched on June 3, and rendezvoused with the ATDA on the second orbit. However, the shroud on the ATDA had only partially opened, and Gemini 9 was unable to dock with it. Nonetheless, Stafford and Cernan conducted orbital rendezvous maneuvers with the ATDA, including a simulated rescue of a lunar module in a lower orbit.[1]:85-92

The following day, Cernan attempted an EVA, with the primary mission of testing the Astronaut Maneuvering Unit (AMU). After exiting the spacecraft, Cernan quickly experienced mobility issues, followed by environmental regulation and communication issues. The EVA was aborted, and Cernan returned to the capsule after 2 hours. On June 6, Gemini 9 landed, and was successfully recovered by the USS Wasp.[1]:92-95

Apollo programEdit

Stafford as Apollo 10 Commander

After Gemini 9, Stafford was assigned as the backup command module pilot on Apollo 2, with Frank Borman as the commander and Mike Collins as the lunar module pilot. For his technical assignment, Stafford was tasked as an astronaut liason for the development of Apollo guidance and navigation systems, as well as the command and service module. In late 1966, Stafford was reassigned to Apollo 2 backup commander, with Apollo 10 crewmates John Young as the command module pilot and Gene Cernan as the lunar module pilot. While testing the command module, they received word of the Apollo 1 fire, and subsequent suspension of the Apollo program.[1]:95-105 [3]:1-6

Apollo 10Edit

In the spring of 1968, Deke Slayton announced that the previous backup crew for Apollo 2 would become the primary crew for Apollo 10. In preparation for the mission, Stafford helped to design a color camera to replace the grainy black-and-white video previously broadcast from space; he felt that public outreach was a vital aspect of the mission.[4] The command module (CM) was nicknamed "Charlie Brown" and the lunar module (LM) was nicknamed "Snoopy."[1]:120-122

Apollo 10 lifted off on May 18, 1969. Despite heavy oscillation during ascent, Apollo 10 achieved orbit without incident, successfully docked the LM and CM, and achieved its translunar injection burn. Upon arriving in lunar orbit, Stafford and Cernan undocked in the LM, and entered an elliptical orbit with a periapsis of 9 miles over the lunar surface. The periapsis coincided with the Sea of Transquility, the intended landing site for Apollo 11, to provide reconnaisance. Upon ascent, the LM began rapidly turning from a misaligned switch on the Abort Guidance System; Stafford was able to regain control and conduct the burn to rendezvous with the CM. The LM docked docked with the CM to return the astronauts, and was jettisoned, along with the flags of all fifty states and the United Nations. After 2 days in lunar orbit, the Apollo 10 began its return trajectory. Along the return, the capsule achieved a speed of 28,547 mi/hr, setting the record for the highest speed achieved by a human being. Apollo 10 landed east of Samoa, and was recovered by the USS Princeton.[1]:120-135

Apollo-Soyuz Test ProjectEdit

Stafford (right) and cosmonaut Leonov training for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project at Star City

Shortly after returning from Apollo 10, Stafford was assigned as head of the NASA Astronaut Corps, replacing Alan Shepard, who had returned to flight status. Soon after Stafford assigned the available astronauts to the upcoming Apollo and Skylab missions, US President Richard Nixon and Soviety president Aleksei Kosygin agreed to the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP). Stafford was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in late 1972, and was soon named the commander of ASTP, along with Deke Slayton and Vance Brand.[1]:135-156

Over the next two years, the ASTP team trained extensively in Russia and the United States. Soyuz 19, carrying Aleksei Leonov and Valery Kubasov, launched on July 15, 1975 at 12:20 UTC, followed by Apollo at 19:50 UTC. After 2 days in space, Soyuz and Apollo docked on July 17th, where the crews met and conducted joint experiments and press conferences. After remaining docked for 44 hours. the two spacecrafts undocked on July 19th. Soyuz returned to Earth on July 21st, while Apollo remained in orbit until July 24th. While descending, the command module began filling with nitrogen tetroxide from the reaction control thrusters. The crew donned oxygen masks, but Brand lost conscioussness and had to be assisted by Stafford. All crew were safely recovered aboard the USS New Orleans. After recovery, the crew was hospitalized in Hawaii for edema from fuel inhalation.[1]:156-197

Post-NASA careerEdit

LtGen Thomas Stafford

In June 1975, prior to ATSP, Stafford was offered a position to return to Edwards AFB. Stafford assumed command of the Air Force Flight Test Center on November 15, 1975. Stafford oversaw both the Air Force and NASA test facilities at Edwards AFB, as well as additional test ranges in Utah and Nevada. While at Edwards, Stafford was able to continue flying, including foreign aircraft such as the MiG-17 and Panavia Tornado, and was involved in the interview of Viktor Belenko after his defection. Additionally, Stafford managed the development of the XST, which would later evolve into the F-117 Nighthawk. In March 1978, he became Deputy Chief of Staff, Research Development and Acquisition in Washington, DC, and was promoted to lieutenant general. While working in Washington, Stafford advocated for the creation of the mobile MX missile, and began developing the Advanced Technology Bomber, the predecessor to the B-2 stealth bomber. Stafford retired to Norman, Oklahoma on November 1, 1979.[1]:198-210

Following his retirement, Stafford served on several corporate boards, including Omega SA, Gibralter Exploration, and Gulfstream Aerospace. He originally intended to reunite with his ATSP crewmates in Russia, but the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the subsequent 1980 Olympics boycott, made them unable to travel to Russia. Stafford created a consulting firm, Stafford, Burke, and Hecker, with two recently retired general officers. In July 1990, Vice President Quayle and Admiral Richard Truly, then the NASA administrator, asked Stafford to chair a committee that advised NASA on long-term lunar and Mars missions. Stafford and his team of 42 full-time members and 150 part-time members created a long-term plan with lunar missions in 2004 and Mars mission in 2012.[1]:211-232 In 1992, Stafford began work as an advisor for Space Station Freedom, the precursor to the International Space Station (ISS). While coordinating Russian involvement, Stafford also became a technical advisor for the Shuttle–Mir Program, particularly STS-63 and STS-71. Stafford also served on a review committee for the Progress-Mir Collision.[1]:230-269

Stafford wrote the epilogue of the book Falling to Earth: An Apollo 15 Astronaut's Journey to the Moon by fellow Apollo astronaut Al Worden.[5] In 2002, Stafford published a book with Michael Cassutt, titled We Have Capture: Tom Stafford and the Space Race.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1953, Stafford married Faye Shoemaker, his fiancee from Weatherford, Oklahoma. Faye and Stafford have 2 daughters, Dionne (b. 1954) and Karin (b. 1957). Faye and Stafford divorced in 1985. Stafford later married Linda Ann Dishman in December 1988.[1]:15,19,216,219 Stafford enjoys hunting, weight lifting, gliding, scuba diving, fishing and swimming.[2]

Awards and honorsEdit

In 2008 Stafford received the Elmer A. Sperry Award, jointly with Glynn S. Lunney, Aleksei A. Leonov and Konstantin D. Bushuyev, for their work on the Apollo-Soyuz mission and the Apollo-Soyuz docking interface design.[7]In 1966, he was co-recipient of the AIAA Award, and in 1969 he received the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Special Trustees Award.[8] In 1979, Stafford was awarded the Society of Experimental Test Pilots James H. Doolittle Award. On January 19, 1993, he received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. On 12 April 2011, Stafford received the Russian Medal "For Merit in Space Exploration" "for outstanding contribution to the development of international cooperation in manned space flight". Stafford received the Harmon International Aviation Trophy in 1966 for piloting Gemini 6A.[2]

Stafford was presented with the Medal "For Merit in Space Exploration" from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on April 12, 2011, at the Moscow Kremlin

Stafford's military decorations and awards include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with three oak leaf clusters. Other awards presented to Stafford include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, NASA Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, NASA Exceptional Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Octave Chanute Award (1976), the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Space Award, the Golden Plate Award for Science and Exploration (1976), National Geographic Society's General Thomas D. White USAF Space Trophy (1975), the A. B. Honts Award as the outstanding graduate from the USAF Experimental Test Pilot School, and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale Gold Space Medal.

In 2011, he was awarded the National Aeronautic Association Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the most prestigious honor in aviation, and the Air Force Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. He joined National Academy of Engineering in 2014.[2] Stafford is an inductee of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.[9][10] He is a fellow of the American Astronautical Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and a member of the Explorers Club.[11][2][12]

Stafford is the recipient of several honorary degrees. These include a Doctorate of Science from Oklahoma City University; a Doctorate of Laws from Western State University; a Doctorate of Communications from Emerson College, and a Doctorate of Aeronautical Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.[2]

Bust of Stafford at the USAF Museum

Stafford is honored in his hometown of Weatherford, also in Weatherford, there is a building on the Southwestern Oklahoma State University named in his honor, including his name being on the local airport, Thomas P. Stafford Airport, and The Stafford Air & Space Museum.[13]

An FAA building at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City, OK is named in his honor.[14]

In mediaEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Stafford, Thomas; Cassutt, Michael (2002). We Have Capture. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-58834-070-8. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Thomas P. Stafford, Lieutenant General, USAF (Retired)". National Aeronautics and Space Administration. March 2014. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  3. ^ Cernan, Eugene; Davis, Don (1999). The Last Man on the Moon. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-19906-6. 
  4. ^ Lebar, Stanley (Summer 1997). "The Color War goes to the Moon" (PDF). Invention and Technology. Retrieved 2013-10-18. 
  5. ^ Falling to Earth web site
  6. ^ Thomas P. Stafford's quotation
  7. ^ "The Elmer A. Sperry Award". Elmer A. Sperry Board of Award. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  8. ^ United States Air Force bio:Thomas P. Stafford
  9. ^ Thomas P. Stafford inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
  10. ^ Thomas P. Stafford inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame
  11. ^ "AAS Fellows". American Astronautical Society. 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  12. ^ "Thomas P. Stafford, Lieutenant General, USAF (Retired)". Oklahoma Statue University. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  13. ^ AirNav: KOJA - Thomas P Stafford Airport
  14. ^ Johnson, James (July 1, 1989). "Astronaut Dedicates FAA Center". News OK. Retrieved 21 January 2018. 
  15. ^ "Houston, We've Got a Problem". Internet Movie Database. 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  16. ^ "Apollo 11". Internet Movie Database. 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  17. ^ "From the Earth to the Moon". Internet Movie Database. 2018. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 
  18. ^ Sullivan, Justin; Morrow, Stuart; Tompkins, Phil (2018). "Space". New Model Army. Retrieved 16 January 2018. 

External linksEdit