Renowned Apollo 10 Commander Thomas Stafford Passes Away at 93

( – On March 18, former astronaut Thomas P. Stafford, 93, who commanded the Apollo 10 mission to the moon, died in a hospital near his home on Florida’s Space Coast following an extended illness.

Born in Weatherford, Oklahoma, on Sept. 17, 1930, Stafford attended the U.S. Naval Academy, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 1952. In 1953, he received his pilot wings in Waco, Texas, at Connally Air Force Base, going on to be assigned to the 54th Flight Interceptor Squadron based out of the Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota.

A retired Air Force three-star general, Stafford was a member of NASA’s second class of astronauts selected in 1962. Stafford went into space four times, including the Apollo 10 mission, which was the second crew of astronauts to fly to the moon. His flights included two Gemini missions, including the first linkup of two U.S. capsules in orbit. He also served as the commander on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, leading the first joint international space mission flown by Russia and the United States.

In June 1969, he was named the chief of the astronaut office, and two years later, he was named the deputy director of flight crew operations.

On Nov. 1, 1975, he retired from NASA, and assumed the command of the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center three days later. He began working for the U.S. Air Force on May 1, 1978, as the deputy chief of staff for research, development, and acquisition and retired in 1979. After he retired from the Air Force, he worked as an executive for a transportation company based in Oklahoma. However, he remained involved with NASA as the go-to guy when it needed independent advice.

The director of the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Oklahoma, Max Ary, said one of the nation’s “great heroes” has been lost, adding that Stafford “was bigger than life.”

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