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Thomas Patten Stafford (born September 17, 1930) is a retired Air Force Lieutenant General, a former NASAmarker astronaut, and the first General Officer (Brigadier General) to fly into space. He is one of only 24 people to have flown to the Moon.


Stafford was born September 17, 1930, in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Married his first wife, former Faye L. Shoemaker. They have two daughters, Dionne Kay, and Karin Elaine. They also have two grandsons, Thomas P. Stafford II and Andrew Alexi Harrison. He later married the former Linda Ann Dishman of Chelsea, Oklahomamarker. They have two sons, Michael Thomas, and Stanslav "Stas" Patten. Linda has two children from a previous marriage, Kassie Neering and Mark Hill, and four grandchildren: Sloane, Lee, Marcus, and Tara. Stafford enjoyed hunting, scuba diving, fishing,and swimming. He went on to graduate with honors in 1952 from the U.S.marker Naval Academymarker, Annapolis, Marylandmarker, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He received his pilot wings at Connally AFBmarker, Waco, Texasmarker, in September 1953. He completed advanced interceptor training and was assigned to the 54th Flight Interceptor Squadron, Ellsworth AFBmarker, Rapid City, South Dakotamarker. In December 1955 he was assigned to the 496th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Hahn Air Basemarker, Germanymarker, where he performed the duties of pilot, flight leader, and flight test maintenance office, flying F-86Ds.

He was an instructor in flight test training and specialized academic subjects-establishing basic textbooks and directing the writing of flight test manuals for use by the staff and students. He is co-author of the Pilot's Handbook for Performance Flight Testing and the Aerodynamics Handbook for Performance Flight Testing.

NASA career

Stafford was selected among the second group of NASA astronauts in September 1962 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administrationmarker (NASA) to participate in Projects Gemini and Apollo.

Project Gemini

Stafford was originally scheduled to fly with veteran astronaut Alan Shepard on the first manned Gemini mission, Gemini 3. But when Shepard was removed from the flight rotation due to an inner ear problem, Stafford was reassigned to back up pilot for that mission. In December 1965, he piloted Gemini VI during the first rendezvous in space, and helped develop techniques to prove the basic theory and practicality of a space rendezvous.

In June 1966 he commanded Gemini IX with Eugene Cernan due to the deaths of prime crew members Charlie Bassett and Elliot See. He performed a demonstration of an early rendezvous that would be used in Apollo 10: the first optical rendezvous; and a lunar orbit abort rendezvous. Until the launch of STS-94 in 1997 he held the record for the briefest duration between spaceflights, at 5 months 19 days.

Project Apollo

From August 1966 to October 1968, he headed the mission planning analysis and software development responsibilities for the astronaut group for Project Apollo.

Stafford was the lead member of the group which helped formulate the sequence of missions leading to the first lunar landing mission. He demonstrated and implemented the theory of a pilot manually flying the Saturn booster into orbit and the translunar injection maneuver.

Stafford also was largely responsible for NASA adopting color television for its spaceflights. Apollo 10 had planned to be slow-scan black and white, but Tom Stafford was determined to let the tax-paying American public share in the beauty of the missions they were funding. The development of a sequential color television system by Westinghouse caught his attention and in the early days of 1969, the demonstration made for him was the catalyst for his pushing NASA to adopt the color format. Once NASA saw how much publicity the color TV pictures generated, the format became standard on all subsequent missions (bar Apollo 11's lunar surface TV camera - which was unfortunately not flight approved for color).

Stafford was commander of Apollo 10 in May 1969, which included the first flight of the lunar module during a Moon orbit, the first rendezvous while in the Moon environment, and the entire lunar landing mission except for the actual landing. He also did reconnaissance and evaluation of future landing sites for Apollo 11.

Stafford and his crewmates, John Young and Gene Cernan, were cited in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest speed ever attained by man—during Apollo 10's return from the moon, the spacecraft reached 24,791 statute miles per hour.

He was assigned as head of the NASA Astronaut Corps in June 1969, responsible for the selection of flight crews for projects Apollo and Skylab. He reviewed and monitored flight crew training status reports, and was responsible for coordination, scheduling, and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts.

In June 1971, Stafford was assigned as Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations at the NASA Manned Spaceflight Center. He was responsible for assisting the director in planning and implementation of programs for the astronaut group, the Aircraft Operations, Flight Crew Integration, Flight Crew Procedures, and Crew Simulation and Training Divisions. Also in 1971, Stafford served as a pallbearer for the crew of the ill-fated Soyuz 11marker.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

He logged his fourth space flight as Apollo commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission, July 15-24, 1975—a joint space flight culminating in the historic first meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts.

Post-NASA career

Stafford was the first member of his Naval Academy class to pin on the first, second and third stars of a General Officer (he became the first General Officer to fly into space, as he was a Brigadier (1-star) General at the time of the ASTP flight in 1975). He made six rendezvous in space; logged 507 hours in space flight; and earned the Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. He has flown over 120 different types of aircraft and helicopters and three different types of spacecraft.

Stafford pats Snoopy, on the way to Launch Complex 39B for the Apollo 10 launch

Stafford assumed command of the Air Force Flight Test Center November 4, 1975. He was promoted to the rank of Major General August 9, 1975, with date of rank of June 1, 1973.

Promoted to rank of Lieutenant General on March 15, 1978, he assumed duties as Deputy Chief of Staff, Research Development and Acquisition, Headquarters USAF, Washington, D.C., on May 1, 1978. In 1979, Stafford was awarded the Society of Experimental Test Pilots James H. Doolittle Award. He retired from the Air Force in November 1979.


In June 1990, Vice President Quayle and Admiral Richard Truly, then the NASA Administrator, asked Stafford to chair a team to independently advise NASA how to carry out President George H.W. Bush's vision of returning to the Moon, this time to stay, and then go on to explore Mars. Stafford assembled teams of 40 full-time and 150 part-time members from the DOD, DOE and NASA, and completed the study called "America at the Threshold", a road map for the next 30 years of the U.S. Manned Space Flight Program. Stafford and Vice President Quayle held a joint Press Conference at the White House in June 1991 to announce the recommendations to the public.

He co-founded the Technical Consulting Firm of Stafford, Burke, and Hecker, Inc. in Alexandria, Virginiamarker. He sits on the Board of Directors of six corporations listed on the New York Stock Exchangemarker, one listed on the American Exchange, and two others, including Seagate Technology, Inc. Seagate Technology is the largest independent hard disk drive maker in the world. He has served as an advisor to a number of governmental agencies including NASA and the Air Force Systems Command. He was a defense advisor to Ronald Reagan during the 1980 Presidential campaign and a member of the Reagan transition team. He served on the National Research Council's Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board; the Committee on NASA Scientific and Technological Program Reviews, and Vice President Quayle's Space Policy Advisory Council. He was Chairman of the NASA Advisory Council Task Force on Shuttle-Mir Rendezvous and Docking Missions, and the NASA Advisory Council Task Force on ISS Operational Readiness.


Stafford played himself in the 1974 TV movie Houston, We've Got a Problem. In the 1996 TV movie Apollo 11 he was played by Tony Carlin. In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon he was played by Steve Hofvendahl.

Stafford is the recipient of several honorary degrees. These include a doctorate of science from Oklahoma City University; a doctorate of laws, Western State University, Gunnison, Colo.; a doctorate of communications, Emerson College, Boston, Mass.; and a doctorate of aeronautical engineering, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Universitymarker, Daytona Beach, Fla.

Stafford recently moved from Oklahoma City, Oklahomamarker to Florida. He is heavily honored in his hometown of Weatherfordmarker, including his name being on the local airport, Thomas P. Stafford Airport and The Stafford Air & Space Museum in honor of the astronaut's accomplishments.

British rock band New Model Army has quoted Stafford in the lyrics to their song Space included on their 5th studio album Impurity from 1990.


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