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Tue, Mar 19, 2024

Gemini-Apollo Astronaut, Tom Stafford, Passes On

Administration Waves Goodby to Colleague

NASA commented regarding the recent passage of 93-year old space alum Tom Stafford.

“Today, General 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." The agency referenced an infamous picture showing Stafford shaking hands with Alexey Leonov, a landmark in East-West collaboration.

“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. He also helped us learn from our tragedies and grow and reach for the next generation of achievement. He was intimately involved with the space program, sharing his thoughts and suggestions on NASA missions until the end of his life. 

“Tom was a gentleman and a daredevil. He flew our first rendezvous in space on Gemini 6, and piloted Gemini 9’s path to Earth with pencil and paper when the spacecraft’s guidance computer failed in orbit. He commanded Apollo 10, the first flight of the lunar module to the Moon, a critical test flight that resulted in the successful landing on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Tom also flew more than 100 different types of aircraft throughout his career as he pushed the edge of the envelope of our achievement in air and space. He was an extraordinary peacemaker who commanded NASA’s first rendezvous of an international spacecraft on the Apollo-Soyuz mission. His counterpart, General Alexei Leonov, became a best friend over the years. Tom gave Alexei’s eulogy in 2019 at the Russian state funeral.

In Stafford's post-space life, policy and procedure still loomed large, NASA notes. “Tom’s dedication to NASA never wavered. In later years, he chaired a team to independently advise NASA on how to carry out President H.W. Bush’s space policy and completed the study ‘America at the Threshold’ about the nation’s potential future with humans in space. He also was co-chairman of the Stafford-Covey Space Shuttle Return to Flight Task Group that assessed NASA’s implementation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Space Shuttle Return to Flight recommendations.

“Our nation will be forever grateful to an explorer who never lost his sense of wonder. About his time in space, he said, ‘It changes you, oh sure. Changes your outlook…As you look back, you see a little blue and white baseball, actually, it’s smaller than a baseball. But it’s hard to envision that is where all the people you’ve known all your life are, where you went to school, your friends, your family. It’s also hard to envision that there are three billion people on that blue and white baseball.’ Godspeed, Tom Stafford.”

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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