Story: Lt. General Thomas P. Stafford, USAF (retired) recounts his journey from Weatherford, Oklahoma to the Cold War-era Air Force, and from there to the Edwards Air Force Base test flight facility and the second class of astronauts selected by NASA. Stafford would fly two record-setting Gemini missions and command the Apollo 10 mission, essentially a full-on dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing. He also commanded the Apollo half of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project flight, the first international mission in space and the first docking of American and Soviet spacecraft. Even after his retirement from the NASA flight rotation, Stafford would go on to serve frequently as America’s ambassador to the Soviet and Russian space programs, right through the Mir/Shuttle docking missions and the International Space Station; and at the same time, he was still fighting the Cold War as well, drawing up the B-2 Stealth bomber’s specs on a hotel napkin. He would also be on many advisory boards regarding NASA safety issues in the wake of both the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and would eventually return to Weatherford to found an aerospace museum.
Review: Co-written with Michael Cassutt (who also co-wrote Apollo-Soyuz astronaut Deke Slayton’s memoirs), “We Have Capture” is an engrossing read for anyone interested in the history of the U.S. space program. Many of the stories you’ve already heard have something in common – Thomas Stafford was on the flip-side, whether it was flying the plane that landed safely mere minutes after another plane carrying a promising two-man rookie Gemini crew crashed, or taking over as NASA’s Chief Astronaut after Alan Shepard overcame Meniere’s Disease and reclaimed his place on the flight roster, or commanding half of the Gemini 6 / Gemini 7 rendezvous mission, or commanding the Apollo 10 moon landing “rehearsal” mission that went to the moon and did everything but land. Tom Stafford was there. […]