Thomas Stafford, Famous Commander of Apollo 10, Dead at 93

( – Thomas Stafford, one of the pioneers in space cooperation, has passed away at the age of 93.

His wife, Linda, confirmed the death. Stafford, who was also recently diagnosed with liver cancer, died in a retirement home in Satellite Beach, Florida.

Stafford is most known for commanding Apollo 10, the American space capsule that linked with a Soviet spaceship in 1975. Stafford’s stints beyond the atmosphere comprised four flights to outer space as well as an orbital mission within nine miles of the surface of the moon. His accomplishments came on the heels of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s successful landing on the moon, in the height of the U.S. and the then-Soviet Union’s rivalry to conquer space.

But Stafford looked beyond the conflicts of his day to pioneer cooperation between nationalities in space, when he, along with Donald “Deke” K. Slayton, and Vance D. Brand, docked their Apollo 10 capsule with the Soviet’s two-manned Soyuz capsule 140 miles above the surface of the earth. The Soyuz capsule was manned by Lieutenant Colonel Aleksei A. Leonov and Valery N. Kubasov.

“I’m sure we have opened up a new era in the history of man,” Stafford famously said to the two Russian cosmonauts.

Stafford was on the selection list for Project Mercury, one of America’s first missions to space, but was deemed too tall to fit into the capsule. He was serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force at the time, after graduating from a service academy. Stafford also served as a test pilot and instructor, and was scientifically-inclined, making him – apart from his height – a perfect candidate for an astronaut.

After being cut from Project Mercury, Stafford attended what became Harvard Business School in 1962. Shortly after, however, he was offered a spot on the Gemini Program under NASA – and this time the capsules were larger, so his height could be accommodated. Stafford accepted the position. He then went on to become an expert on linking spacecraft, and was also part of the team that scouted for the moon landing site of Apollo 11, the mankind’s first successful moon landing.

Copyright 2024,