Thomas Stafford


Photo courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, nasa.gov (accessed January 16, 2013).

Date of Birth: September 17, 1930

Oklahoma Connection: Born in Weatherford, Oklahoma

Missions:
Gemini 6
Gemini 9
Apollo 11
Apollo-Soyuz

Thomas Stafford joined the US Naval Academy and afterward joined the US Air Force. His first flight was on the Gemini 6. He and his co-pilot Walter Schirra showed that it is possible for two spacecraft to fly near one another in order to dock like a ship and connect. The Gemini 6 came within one foot of Gemini 7. Stafford’s next mission came unexpectedly when the crew of Gemini 9 died tragically in a plane crash. Stafford was part of the backup crew that allowed the mission to continue. While on the Gemini 9, his partner Eugene Cernan was doing a spacewalk when his face shield fogged over and communications started to fail. Stafford was able to talk him back inside, saving Cernan’s life.

On his next mission on Apollo 10, he flew in the largest rocket ever built, the Saturn V.This flight helped prepare for the future mission to walk on the moon. For his last mission on Apollo-Soyuz, Stafford performed the first international rendezvous and docking. The astronauts met and worked together with two Russian cosmonauts. When they met, Stafford and Russian Alexei Leonov shook hands, known as the “Handshake in Space” that helped begin the ending of the Cold War and allowed the Russians and Americans to work together in space. Altogether, Stafford spent 407 hours and forty-three minutes in space.


Thomas Stafford touching Snoopy, the mission’s mascot, for good luck. Photo courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, nasa.gov (accessed January 16, 2013).


Thomas Stafford standing at the left. Photo courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration, nasa.gov (accessed January 16, 2013).


Thomas Stafford and Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, 1975 (18220.l11.o, Jerry Elliott Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division).


Thomas Stafford speaking at the Oklahoma Historical Society (19687.HS.OHS.EV.1.21, Chester R. Cowen Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division).


Autographed picture of Gemini spacecraft by Thomas Stafford (22668.4, Carter Bradley Collection, Oklahoma Historical Society Research Division).


Gemini 6-A, (Oklahomans in Space, Oklahoma History Center).

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