Pioneering Gemini, Apollo Astronaut Thomas Stafford Dies at 93






Astronaut Thomas B. Stafford (top) and astronaut Alexey A. Leonov looks through the hatchway from the Apollo Docking Module to the Soyuz Orbital Module during a joint US and Russian space mission from 1975. File photo by NASA
Air Force Gen. and NASA Project Gemini and Project Apollo astronaut Thomas Stafford (R) meets with a member of the USAF Thunderbirds flight crew after arriving at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., on March 21, 2013. File photo by Joe Marino- Bill Cantrell/UPI
Left to right, former astronauts, Walt Cunningham, Apollo 7; James Lovell, Apollo 8 and Apollo 11; David Scott, Apollo 9 and Apollo 15; Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11; Charles Duke, Apollo 16; Thomas Stafford, Apollo 10; and Eugene Cernan, Apollo 10 and Apollo 17, pose for a group photo following a press conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the moon landing at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC on July 20, 2009. File photo by Kevin Deitch/UPI
Astronauts John W. Young, left, commander, and Robert L. Crippen piloted the space shuttle Orbiter 102 Columbia on its first orbital flight test. File photo courtesy of NASA/UPI

March 18 (UPI) — Former Gemini and Apollo 10 astronaut Thomas Stafford died on Monday at his home in an Indian port, NASA said. He is 93 years old.

Stafford, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, was a test pilot in the early days of the U.S. space program, flew on the first Apollo-Soyuz mission and headed NASA's astronaut office in the early 1970s.

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„Today, General Tom Stafford went to the eternal paradise that he so bravely explored as a Gemini and Apollo astronaut, as well as a peacemaker on the Apollo-Soyuz mission,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. Report Published on the NASA website.

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„Those of us who had the privilege of knowing him are deeply saddened, but grateful to have known a great man,” Nelson said. „Tom was instrumental in the early successes of our nation's space program and was instrumental in developing space as a model for international cooperation.”

Stafford flew NASA's first space rendezvous on the Gemini 6 mission in 1965, and returned to Earth on the Gemini 9 mission in 1966 using pencil and paper.

Stafford commanded the Apollo 10 mission in 1969. That mission allowed him and astronaut Gene Cernan to fly less than 10 miles from the lunar surface, helping lead to the successful Apollo 11 moon landing later that year.

During Apollo 10's re-entry, Stafford, Cernan, and John Young set a human speed record of 24,791 mph, equal to 7 miles per second. The speed record still stands, step by step Stafford Air & Space Museum.

Young died in 2018 at the age of 87.

Stafford commanded NASA's Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, the first international space shuttle rendezvous, and became close friends with his Russian counterpart, General Alexei Leonov. When Leonov died in 2019, Stafford delivered the eulogy during his state funeral in Russia.

Stafford was commissioned a brigadier general in 1975, making him the first astronaut to achieve that rank, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that year for his contributions to the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

The Apollo-Soyuz mission is seen by many as the first step leading to the eventual end of the Cold War, and it made Stafford the only American general to fly in space.

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Before joining NASA, Stafford was an Air Force test pilot and has flown more than 100 different types of aircraft during his tenure with the Air Force and NASA. He graduated from the US Naval Academy, where he graduated in the top 1% of his class, and later transferred to the Air Force. KFOR4.

After leaving NASA following the Apollo-Soyuz mission, Stafford rejoined the Air Force, received more promotions, and became commander of Area 51 in the Nevada desert, then headed the Air Force Research and Development and Acquisition Division at the Pentagon until his retirement in 1979. .

Under Stafford's watch, the Air Force developed some of the nation's most important aircraft, including the F-15 and F-16 fighter jets, the A-10 Warthog and the B-1B bomber. He spurred the development of stealth technology and developed the specifications for the F-117 Stealth Fighter and the B-2 Stealth Bomber, earning him the title „Father of Stealth”.

Stafford was born in 1930 in Weatherford, Okla., where the Air and Space Museum named after him is located. U.S. Senators James Lankford and Markwayne Mulling and Rep. Cindy Munson, D-Oklahoma City, expressed grief over Stafford's passing. Local media.

No cause of death was reported.

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