Thomas Patten Stafford
(Lt Gen, USAF, Ret.)
(1930 – )
Missions: Gemini 6A, Gemini 9A, Apollo 10, ASTP
Time in Space: 507 hours, 43 minutes
NASA astronaut Thomas Patten Stafford was born on September 17, 1930, in Weatherford, Oklahoma. He received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the United States Naval Academy in 1952. Stafford then joined the United States Air Force, earning his wings at James Connally Air Force Base in Waco.
Stafford began his career with NASA in September 1962 when he was selected to join the second group of astronauts, also known as the New Nine. He flew four space missions: as Pilot for Gemini 6A in December 1965, during which Stafford helped to pilot the first manned space rendezvous; as Commander for Gemini 9A in June 1966, during which he performed the first optical rendezvous; as Commander of Apollo 10 in May 1969, the “dress rehearsal” for the lunar landing; and as Apollo Commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in July 1975, the first joint U.S.-Soviet space flight. In total, he logged 507 hours and 43 minutes in space.
Beginning in 1969, Stafford served as head of the NASA Astronaut Corps, putting him in control of all activities involving astronauts for Projects Apollo. In 1971, he became the Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. He left NASA in 1975 to assume command of the Air Force Flight Test Center.