Thomas Stafford, 93, Commander of First U.S.-Soviet House Mission, Dies


Thomas P. Stafford, an astronaut who pioneered cooperation in house when he commanded the American capsule that linked up with a Soviet spaceship in July 1975, died on Monday in Satellite tv for pc Seashore, Fla. He was 93.

His dying, in a retirement dwelling, was confirmed by his spouse, Linda. She mentioned he had not too long ago been recognized with liver most cancers.

Normal Stafford flew 4 instances in house and orbited inside 9 miles of the moon’s floor on the mission that preceded the moon walks of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in July 1969, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s quest to greatest the Soviet Union within the house race.

However when Normal Stafford flew with the civilian astronauts Donald Okay. Slayton, referred to as Deke, and Vance D. Model within the Apollo capsule that docked with the Soviet Union’s two-man Soyuz some 140 miles above the earth, he regarded past the rivalries of world powers.

The Chilly Warfare would linger till the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, as Normal Stafford urged, the way forward for house lay in missions with worldwide crews.

In 1959, when NASA selected the primary group of seven astronauts for its Mission Mercury in America’s race to place a person on the moon, Normal Stafford, a lanky, 6-foot Oklahoman who was then a junior Air Drive officer, was on the choice record. He had been a check pilot and an teacher, he had graduated from a service academy, and he had a scientific bent. However he was an inch too tall for the Mercury capsules.

He enrolled at what grew to become Harvard Enterprise College in September 1962. However on his thirty second birthday, three days after his arrival in Cambridge, he was provided a spot in NASA’s Gemini program, since he may match into the bigger capsules that might quickly be launched. He put Harvard behind him.

He flew twice for the Gemini program and have become an knowledgeable in rendezvous, the linkup of two spacecraft that might be required for a moon voyage. He orbited the moon in a two-man lunar module in Could 1969, scouting a touchdown web site for Apollo 11.

Six years later, when Normal Stafford’s Apollo capsule caught up with the Soyuz launched by the Soviet Union, and the 2 spacecraft drew shut in adjoining orbits, he radioed the Soviet astronauts and mentioned, in Russian, “We now have seize.” Colonel Leonov replied in English, “Properly completed, Tom, it was a great present.”

Greater than three hours later, Normal Stafford and Mr. Slayton crawled into the Soyuz by way of a connecting module whereas Mr. Model remained within the Apollo to watch its programs. Normal Stafford introduced the Soviets with 5 small American flags. The Russians responded with items that included a sketch of the three People drawn by Colonel Leonov, an newbie artist.

The Soviet chief, Leonid I. Brezhnev, despatched good needs in a message transmitted by Soviet house officers, and President Gerald R. Ford spoke to the crews by phone. Over the subsequent 44 hours, the 5 spacemen took turns visiting with each other, conducting scientific experiments and holding a joint information convention earlier than separating.

After 9 days in house, the Apollo spacecraft, which had been launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, splashed down 330 miles northwest of Hawaii, nearly exactly on course. However the astronauts’ mishandling of switches throughout descent allowed a noxious fuel to enter their chamber, affecting the lungs of all three crewmen and ensuing of their temporary hospitalization upon touchdown. Mr. Model mentioned he was in charge for the mishap, however Normal Stafford mentioned the crew bore a collective accountability.

That proved a footnote to a mission that thrilled People and Russians alike. When Normal Stafford and his fellow astronauts visited the Soviet Union in September 1975 as visitors of their Russian counterparts, they have been greeted with cheers on the streets they usually signed autographs.

Thomas Patten Stafford was born on Sept. 17, 1930, in Weatherford, Okla., west of Oklahoma Metropolis. His father, Thomas Sabert Stafford, was a dentist. His mom, Mary Ellen (Patten) Stafford, had moved to Oklahoma as a toddler in her household’s lined wagon.

He graduated in 1952 from america Naval Academy the place, he as soon as informed Life journal, “I stood close to the highest in all of the engineering topics, and in nearly every little thing however conduct.”

He was commissioned within the Air Drive, flew fighter planes after which attended the experimental flight check college at Edwards Air Drive Base in California. After graduating in 1959, he grew to become chief of the efficiency department of the aerospace analysis pilot college at Edwards and wrote manuals for Air Drive check pilots.

Normal Stafford’s first spaceflight was in December 1965 when, as an Air Drive main, he piloted Gemini 6, commanded by Capt. Walter M. Schirra Jr. of the Navy. Orbiting 185 miles above the earth, Gemini 6 got here inside a foot of the Gemini 7 capsule, which carried Cmdr. James A. Lovell Jr. of the Navy and Lt. Col. Frank Borman of the Air Drive and which was launched 11 days earlier than Gemini 6 lifted off.

That joint mission marked the primary rendezvous of two manned spacecraft, the form of maneuver that needed to be perfected for a lunar module to descend to the moon from a command module, which remained in orbit, after which hyperlink up with it for the journey dwelling.

Normal Stafford was again in house in June 1966 because the commander of Gemini 9, flying with Capt. Eugene A. Cernan of the Navy. Initially assigned as a backup crew, they stepped in when Elliot See and Charles Bassett, the astronauts assigned to the mission, have been killed in a coaching jet crash. Gemini 9 carried out three variations of rendezvous with a beforehand launched unmanned goal car.

On the Apollo 10 mission in Could 1969, Normal Stafford flew in orbit across the moon with Commander Cernan of their lunar module, named Charlie Brown, whereas Capt. John W. Younger of the Navy remained in orbit of their house capsule, Snoopy, awaiting their return. That flight scouted a possible touchdown web site within the Sea of Tranquillity for Apollo 11 and was the primary to beam stay colour TV pictures from house.

Normal Stafford, who obtained his first star in 1972, held main administrative positions in NASA after the Apollo 10 flight, then returned for his fourth house mission within the Apollo-Soyuz Check Mission and was promoted to main basic.

He left NASA to command the Air Drive flight check middle at Edwards in 1975, and in 1978 was promoted to lieutenant basic and named deputy chief of employees for analysis and growth of the Air Drive. He retired in November 1979 and have become an aviation advisor.

Stafford Air & House Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian, opened in his hometown, Weatherford, two years later.

Normal Stafford and his spouse, Linda Ann (Dishman) Stafford, adopted two boys, Michael and Stas, from a Russian orphanage in 2004 with assist from Colonel Leonov, who was a personality witness for the couple.

Along with his spouse, Mr. Stafford is survived by Michael and Stas; his daughters, Dionne and Karin Stafford, each from his first marriage, to Faye Shoemaker, which resulted in divorce; a stepdaughter, Kassie Pierce; a stepson, Mark Hill; two grandsons; 4 step-grandchildren; and 5 great-grandchildren.

Whereas the Staffords’ boys, have been adjusting to life in america throughout their first months in Oklahoma, after they have been 13 and 9, Normal Stafford mirrored on his persevering with friendship with Colonel Leonov and on how the world had modified since their pioneering journey.

“We’ve saved in shut contact through the years,” he informed The Oklahoman newspaper in 2004. “We discuss fairly a bit. He was an enormous Communist within the previous days; now he’s an funding banker.”

When Colonel Leonov died at 85 in 2019, Normal Stafford spoke in Russian on the funeral, held in a suburb of Moscow. He known as Colonel Leonov “my colleague and pal” and mentioned: “Alexei, we’ll always remember you.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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