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Stafford Air and Space Museum

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Stafford Air and Space Museum
Weatherford, Oklahoma 73096
Voice: 580-772-5871

The mission of the Thomas P. Stafford Air and Space Museum is to stimulate public interest, and education in aviation and space exploration by providing information, exhibits, and experiences that reflect the history of air and space flight.

General Stafford graduated with honors in 1952 from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. General Stafford received his pilot wings at Connally AFB, Waco, Texas, in September 1953. He completed advanced interceptor training and was assigned to the 54th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Ellsworth AFB, Rapid City, South Dakota. In December 1955 he was assigned to the 496th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Hahn Air Base, Germany, where he performed the duties of pilot, flight leader, and flight test maintenance officer, flying F-86Ds. Upon returning to the United States in August 1958 he attended the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, graduated in April 1959, and received the A. B. Honts award as the outstanding graduate. He remained with the school as an instructor teaching flight test training and specialized academic subjects.

General Stafford was selected among the second group of astronauts in September 1962 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to participate in Gemini and Apollo projects. In December 1965, he was the pilot of Gemini VI, which was the first rendezvous in space, and helped in the development of techniques to prove the basic theory and practicality of space rendezvous. In June 1966, he was commander of Gemini IX and performed three different types of rendezvous, including a demonstration of an early rendezvous that would be used in Apollo; the first optical rendezvous; and a simulated lunar module abort rendezvous.

From August 1966 to October 1968, he headed the mission planning analysis and software development responsibilities for the astronaut group for Project Apollo. General 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. General Stafford was commander of Apollo 10 in May of 1969.  It was the first flight of the lunar module to the moon, He performed the first rendezvous around the Moon and descended to within 9 miles of the lunar surface, but because the module weighed to much, the mission could not set down on the lunar surface. However, he selected the site of the first lunar landing, which occurred two months later. During re-entry from this mission, General Stafford achieved the highest speed ever attained by man at 28,547 statute miles per hour. This set the world's all-time speed record and he was sited in the Guinness Book of World Records for the feat. He was assigned as head of the astronaut group in June 1969 and, as such, was 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, General Stafford was assigned as Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. In this role 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. 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. This signaled a major advance in efforts for the conduct of joint experiments and the exchange of mutual assistance in future international space explorations.

General Stafford assumed command of the Air Force Flight Test Center November 4, of 1975. He was promoted to the grade of Major General August 9, 1975, with the date of rank June 1, 1973 Promoted to grade of Lieutenant General on March 15, 1978 and on May 1, 1978 assumed duties as Deputy Chief of Staff, Research Development and Acquisition, Headquarters USAF, Washington, D.C. It was during this time that he personally initiated the start of the F-117A Stealth Fighter. In a Chicago hotel room in early 1979, he wrote the initial specifications on a piece of hotel stationary and started the advanced technology bomber development. This aircraft is now designated the B-2 "Stealth Bomber". General Stafford retired from the Air Force in November 1979. In June of 1990, Vice President Quayle and the then NASA Administrator, Admiral Richard Truly, asked General Stafford to Chair a team to independently advise NASA on how to carry out President Bush's vision of returning to the Moon, this time to stay, and then going on to explore Mars.

Pictures and information were provided by Stafford Air and Space Museum

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