Astronaut Thomas Stafford Dies At 93

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Gen. Tom Stafford, who helped bring Cold War enemies together in cooperation 140 miles above the Earth, died in a retirement home near Cape Canaveral on Monday at the age of 93. Stafford was the commander of an American capsule that docked with a Soviet Soyuz ship in July of 1975, heralding decades of future cooperation in space between the two earthly rivals. “I’m sure we have opened up a new era in the history of man,” he told the two Soviet astronauts, Lt. Col. Aleksei A. Leonov and Valery N. Kubasov. Deke Slayton and Vance Brand were also on the American ship.

Stafford would have joined the Mercury 7 as one of the first group of NASA astronauts but he was an inch too tall for the tiny capsule. He was headed to Harvard Business School in 1962 when NASA came calling again, offering him a slot in the Gemini program with its more capacious capsule. He flew two Gemini flights and became a docking expert as NASA prepared to send astronauts to the moon. He orbited the moon on Apollo 10 but never went to the surface. He flew in space four times.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I had the pleasure and privilege to hear Gen Stafford speak at one of the National Biplane Fly-ins many years ago. Along with his account of the historic Apollo-Soyuz mission and other spaceflight adventures, he let it slip that he was the only USAF General who qualified in seaplanes as a Naval Aviator cadet – flying and floating a centerline-float equipped N3N. Now that’s a rich life. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Stafford’s home town of Weatherford OK, the Thomas Stafford Air & Space Museum is next to the airport and definitely worth a look while stretching your legs. Many of the exhibits relate to Stafford’s space flights and career but the collection holds other noteworthy items and aircraft as well. RIP Gen. Stafford.

  2. I had the pleasure of meeting General Stafford. He was an amazing man and a delight to talk to. The world truly lost a great soul and a wonderfully kind man. RIP General.

  3. Stafford looked the part, acted like it, and was the right stuff. I believe he had to learn Russian for the 1975 Soviet docking mission.

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