San Diego Air & Space Museum remembers Apollo 10 Commander Tom Stafford

The San Diego Air & Space Museum is remembering Apollo 10 Commander Tom Stafford, one of just 24 men to ever fly to the Moon. Stafford passed away on March 18, 2024 at the age of 93.

Stafford became an astronaut in 1962 as part of the so-called “New Nine” of “Next Nine,” NASA’s second group of astronauts. He flew aboard Gemini 6A with Wally Schirra in 1965 and Gemini 9A with Gene Cernan in 1966.

In 1969, Stafford commanded Apollo 10, the second crewed mission to orbit the Moon. While at the Moon, he and Gene Cernan became the first to fly an Apollo Lunar Module in lunar orbit, descending to an altitude of nine miles.

“Today, Gen. Tom Stafford went to the eternal heavens, which he so courageously explored as a Gemini and Apollo astronaut, as well as a peacemaker in the Apollo-Soyuz mission,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement posted on the NASA website.

“Those of us privileged to know him are very sad but grateful we knew a giant,” Nelson said. “Tom was critical to the earliest successes of our nation’s space program and was instrumental in developing space as a model for international cooperation.”

Thomas Patten Stafford (September 17, 1930 – March 18, 2024) was an American Air Force officer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut, and one of 24 astronauts who flew to the Moon. He also served as Chief of the Astronaut Office from 1969 to 1971.

After graduating from the United States Naval Academy, Stafford was commissioned in the United States Air Force, flying the F-86 Sabre before becoming a test pilot.

In 1975, Stafford was the commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) flight, the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. A brigadier general at the time, he became the first general officer to fly in space. He was 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.

Stafford flew more than 120 types of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft and three types of spacecraft. After the deaths of Wally Schirra, Eugene Cernan, and John Young, he was the last surviving crew member of Gemini 6A, Gemini 9A, and Apollo 10.

In 1993, the Stafford Air & Space Museum was founded in his hometown of Weatherford, Oklahoma. Originally just two rooms, it has grown to over 63,000 square feet (5,850 m2) of artifact space. It is a Smithsonian affiliate and is the only museum in the world to house test-fired engines that would have been used in the Space Race: a U.S. F-1 engine and a Soviet NK-33 engine. It holds the Gemini 6 spacecraft that he and Schirra flew in a rendezvous with Gemini 7.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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