Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Weatherford, Oklahoma

Today's post is a history and science lesson. Our specific subject is Thomas Stafford, the astronaut. 
Does his name ring a bell? It should, maybe, if you remember the Gemini/Apollo/Apollo-Soyuz space projects. Stafford flew in all of them. I wondered why his name was vague in my mind - not a "John Glenn" or "Neil Armstrong" kinda of name. But now I know Stafford as one of my favorite astronauts. 

Amazing what a little education will do. 

Why Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, OK? The town is Stafford's birthplace and where he grew up.  But he chooses to start his museum tour with a reminding tribute to the Wright Brothers. 
Stafford's museum includes hundreds of artifacts and equipment from the Gemini & Apollo & Apollo/Soyuz space flights. Here are some photos of the rockets and rocket boosters used.


Stafford's first space flight was aboard Gemini 6, in December 1965. The history lesson here is that Gemini 6 launched AFTER Gemini 7. It wasn't supposed to, but problems with Gemini 6 kept it from launching on its original date, and its next attempt also failed. So Stafford's flight is listed as "Gemini 6 A, Second Attempt". Yikes. 3rd time a charm?

Gemini 6A second attempt rendezvoused with Gemini 7 but they did not dock. Technology wasn't quite there yet... BUT, when Gemini 6A returned to earth, it splashed down only 11 miles from its target (an excellent splash down!), and it was the first 'splash down' televised live. 1965...

Stafford's capsule companion was Wally Schirra

 The all important space suit... 
Trolly Tom knows its importance all too well.

NASA ground console.

Stafford also commanded Gemini 9 in 1966 (with astronaut Eugene Cernan).

In 1968, Stafford commanded Apollo 10. This was the Apollo that did everything EXCEPT land on the moon. It was the 'dry run' for Apollo 11 (with Neil Armstrong) and it included a lunar module. How tempting it must have been to ignore the rules and land on the moon.... 
Apollo 10 included astronauts Eugene Cernan and John Young.

From there, Stafford commanded the Apollo-Soyuz joint effort. Stafford is the guy who shook hands way up there in space with cosmonaut Alexey Leonov.

The all important ejection seat...

This pretty much covers today history lesson. I hope it has brought back some memories or encouraged you to read more about Stafford and other astronauts. 
Our hours spent at the museum were such a guilty pleasure - I loved being a child again and recalling my vague memories of our space programs. Thomas Stafford's museum does an excellent job of reminding us all what we accomplished in space and how exciting each mission was.

If you get a chance, visit a space/air museum. The mystery and hope of these men will be unfolded. It is hard not to walk through the displays and feel the excitement of each program: Friendship, Gemini, Apollo, the shuttles.

These days, when Congress can't reach agreement on a budget, on taxes, on our future - it is worthwhile remembering that at one time, we had a dream.

7 comments:

Sam said...

I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know much about our astronauts! Thanks for the information!

Sam

Diane AZ said...

The Stafford Air & Space Museum looks like an interesting place. I did not know that Gemini 6 launched after Gemini 7!

Cyndi and Stumpy said...

Space is cool and Stafford should be more well known than he is.

Where on earth (or space) did Tommy get a space suit?

Brenda's Arizona said...

Stumpy, Tommy showed up dressed that way. What can I say...

Thérèse said...

At the time I was still a child but I do remember vaguely all these programs going on. Thks for sharing, I must admit Stafford did not ring a bell but it should have.

Banjo52 said...

I especially like your (sobering) conclusion.

That doll's hair is the brightest color I've ever seen.

I grew up near John Glenn's hometown of New Concord, Ohio. Went to several Muskingum College football games. The high school has carried his name for a few decades now.

The spacecraft, astronauts and astronomy are all beyond my ability to imagine, but I've always been glad there are people who can handle it.

Pat Tillett said...

Very interesting! Lots to see there! I'll have to make it a point to see this place next time we go that way...