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Thomas Stafford has logged nearly 521 hours in space, flying six rendezvous on four types of spacecraft. In 1965 he piloted Gemini VI, the first rendezvous in space, and in 1966, commanding Gemini IX, he demonstrated a rendezvous used in the Apollo lunar missions. He headed the mission planning analysis and software development for Project Apollo, and as commander of Apollo 10 in 1969 he flew the first rendezvous around the moon and designated the first lunar landing site. He was cited in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest speed ever attained by a human, when Apollo 10 attained 27621.7 statute mph or Mach 36 during reentry. In 1975 he was commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission, which culminated in the historic first meeting in space between US astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts, ending the international space race.
As Commanding General at Edwards AFB he presided over the development of the B-1A, F-15, YF-16, A-10, YC-14, and YC-15, and as US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Research, Development, and Acquisitions he conceived of and started the stealth aircraft programs the F-117A, B-2A, AGM-129 and the roadmap for the F-22 Raptor. He retired from the Air Force in 1979 and in 1982 cofounded the technical consulting firm of Stafford, Burke, and Hecker in Alexandria, VA.
In 1990 in response to a request from Vice President Dan Quayle and Admiral Richard Truly, then NASA administrator, General Stafford assembled teams from the DOD, DOE, and NASA to prepare “America at the Threshold,” a roadmap for the next 30 years of the US Manned Space Flight Program beyond low Earth orbit.
He chaired the Operations Oversight Committee of the first Hubble Telescope Spacecraft Servicing and Repair Mission that corrected the instrument’s design and manufacturing defect, for which he received the NASA Public Service Award (1994), and also chaired the Shuttle Return to Flight Group to carry out the recommendations of the Spaceship Columbia Accident Board. He has received numerous other honors and medals from NASA and the Air Force, as well as the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, and AIAA Chanute Flight Award, to name just a few. In addition to his NAE membership, he is a fellow of the American Astronautical Society, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and Society of Experimental Test Pilots, and has been inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame and National Aviation Hall of Fame.
General Stafford received his BS with honors, in electrical and mechanical engineering, from the US Naval Academy and graduated 1st in class at the USAF Test Pilot School in 1959.