Famed 93-year-old Nasa Astronaut Tom Stafford Passes Away

(NationalUSNews.com) — Legendary 93-year-old NASA astronaut Tom Stafford recently died after a lengthy battle with an undisclosed illness, marking an end to his status as one of the most historically important astronauts in world history. Stafford worked alongside other NASA astronauts starting in the early 1960s and even commanded one of the rehearsal flights for the first Apollo moon landing. Stafford also flew to the moon during one of his space missions but never landed on its surface.

Stafford participated in the first coordinated space voyage between the United States and the Soviet Union. After both space crews connected aircraft in orbit, Stafford shook hands with Russian cosmonaut Alexey Leonov. Although most know Stafford for his role in the first joint space venture between the United States and the Soviet Union, the deceased astronaut commanded multiple missions into space and spent years working alongside NASA before the first Apollo crew landed on the moon.

Stafford first went to space in 1965 on the Gemini 6, the fifth human-crewed American spacecraft to successfully launch into space and orbit the Earth. After his first flight aboard the Gemini 6, Stafford flew back into space on the Gemini 9 the following year. Following his experience aboard the Gemini vessels, NASA appointed Stafford the commander of the 1969 Apollo 10 mission, which became the first American spacecraft to complete a full orbit of the moon. Stafford’s work at NASA aided the ongoing space race effort and directly contributed to the successful 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing.

Stafford also famously commanded the rehearsal flight for Apollo 11, just two months before the historic moon landing. Stafford’s spacecraft reached nine miles above the moon’s surface before his crew flew back to Earth. Stafford’s last mission to space occurred in 1975, when he and his crew docked with the Soviet Union spacecraft. Stafford’s last space-faring mission became the first of a long series of joint missions between countries and directly contributed to the development of the International Space Station.

Although many are aware of Stafford’s career as an astronaut, the icon also worked in the United States Air Force until his retirement. Stafford famously discussed his ideas for NASA after his final mission, claiming the space-faring organization had to establish long-term goals for its space exploration efforts. Stafford also advised NASA against working towards a president’s goals, as once a new administration arrived, it could halt or reverse progress within NASA’s various projects. Stafford’s death is the latest instance of an Apollo crewman dying, marking the third such death since November. Only eight astronauts who participated in NASA’s lunar missions remain alive.

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