Thomas Stafford died: one of the 24 people who flew to the Moon and the prototype of the main character of the series For All Mankind

Former astronaut Thomas Stafford passed away in the USA at the age of 94. This is stated in the official message published on the NASA website.

Thomas Stafford. Source: NASA

Thomas Stafford was born on September 17, 1930, in Weatherford, Oklahoma. In 1952, he received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the United States Naval Academy and began serving in the United States Air Force as a second lieutenant. After primary flight training, he completed studies as a fighter pilot. He graduated from the test pilot school with honors. In total, during his career, he flew 120 different types of aircraft.

In 1962, Stafford was selected to be part of the second group of NASA astronauts. His first flight into space took place three years later as a Gemini 6A pilot. Initially, the main purpose of the mission was to rendezvous and dock with the Agena target stage. However, after the rocket exploded at launch, an alternative plan was developed: a rendezvous with the Gemini 7 spacecraft in orbit. The Gemini 6A crew successfully completed this task. The minimum approach distance was 30 cm.

The approach of Gemini 6A and Gemini 7. Source: NASA

Stafford’s second flight took place in 1966 as the commander of the Gemini 9A mission. The main purpose of the mission was again to dock with the Agena target stage. And again, it could not be completed due to a rocket accident. Therefore, an alternative ADTA target was launched into orbit. Gemini 9A successfully approached it, but the docking did not take place due to the fact that the head fairing did not separate from the ADTA (because of its appearance, the astronauts nicknamed it the space alligator).

ADTA target with an unopened fairing. Source: NASA

After two flights, Stafford became one of the most experienced astronauts in the ranks of NASA. So he was given command of the dress rehearsal for the moon landing, the Apollo 10 mission. During this flight, a bunch of lunar and command modules entered lunar orbit. After that, the lunar module, which was carrying Thomas Stafford and Eugene Cernan, began to descend. They flew over the site where Apollo 11 made its historic landing two months later. In the aposeleneum, the crew of Apollo 10 was at an altitude of only 14 km above the Moon. 

Apollo 10 lunar module. Source: NASA

The last time Thomas Stafford flew into space was in 1975. He commanded the Apollo spacecraft, which docked with the Soviet Soyuz. On July 17, 1975, Stafford and Alexei Leonov made a historic handshake in space.

Leonov and Stafford’s handshake in orbit. Source: NASA

After completing this flight, Stafford worked at the Air Force Flight Test Center until retiring in 1979. Later, he was involved in various commercial projects, and was also an advisor to several space programs, including the Mir Shuttle. The main character of the series “For All Mankind” Ed Baldwin, whose action takes place in an alternate history, where the USSR was the first to land a man on the moon, was partially based on the image of Thomas Stafford.

After Stafford’s death, of the 24 astronauts who flew to the Moon as part of the Apollo program, 7 people have remained alive. The youngest of them is 88 years old.

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time