Retired Nov. 1, 1979.
Lieutenant General Thomas P. Stafford is deputy chief of staff, research, development and acquisition, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
General Stafford was born in 1930, in Weatherford, Okla., where he graduated from Weatherford High School in. 1948. He graduated with honors in 1952 from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
General Stafford received his pilot wings at James Connally Air Force Base, Texas, in September 1953. After completing advanced interceptor training, he was assigned to the 54th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. In December 1955 he was transferred to the 496th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, Hahn Air Base, Germany, where he was a pilot, flight leader and flight test maintenance officer, flying the F-86D aircraft.
He entered the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., in August 1958 and received the A.B. Honts award as the outstanding graduate in April 1959. He remained with the school as an instructor and later was chief of the performance branch. He was instructor in flight test training and specialized academic subjects -- establishing basic textbooks and directing the writing of flight test manuals for use by the staff and students. He is co-author of the "Pilot's Handbook For Performance Flight Testing" and the "Aerodynamics Handbook For Performance Flight Testing."
General Stafford was selected among the second group of astronauts in September 1962 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to participate in projects Gemini and Apollo. In December 1965 he was the pilot of Gemini VI, which was the first rendezvous in space, and helped in the development techniques to prove the basic theory and practicality of space rendezvous. In June 1966 he was commander of Gemini IX and performed three different types of rendezvous, including a demonstration of an early rendezvous that would be used in Apollo, the first Optical rendezvous, and a lunar-orbit-abort rendezvous.
From August 1966 to October 1968 he headed the mission planning analysis and software development responsibilities for the astronaut group for Project Apollo. General Stafford was a member of the group which helped formulate the sequence of missions leading to the first lunar-landing mission. He demonstrated and implemented the theory of a pilot manually flying the Saturn booster into orbit and the translunar-injection maneuver.
General Stafford was commander of Apollo X in May 1969, the first flight of the lunar module to the moon, performed the first rendezvous around the moon, and performed the entire lunar-landing mission except the actual landing. He also made reconnaissance and tracking on future Apollo landing sites. General Stafford was cited in the "Guinness Book of World Records" for highest reentry speed of any Manned Space flight during Apollo X. In June 1969 he was assigned as head of the astronaut group and, as such, was responsible for the selection of flight crews for projects Apollo and Skylab. He reviewed and monitored flight crew training statuses, and was responsible for coordination, scheduling, and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts.
In June 1971 General Stafford was assigned as deputy director of flight crew operations at the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. In this role he was responsible for assisting the director in planning and implementing programs for the astronaut group, and the Aircraft Operations, Flight Crew Integration, Flight Crew Procedures, and the Crew Simulation and Training Divisions. He logged his fourth space flight as Apollo commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission from July 15-24, 1975--a joint space flight culminating in the historic first meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. The event signaled a major advance in efforts for the conduct of joint experiments and the exchange of mutual assistance in future international space explorations.
In November 1975 General Stafford became commander of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. He assumed his present duty on April 1, 1978.
General Stafford has completed 507 hours and 43 minutes in space flight and wears the Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. He has more than 6,800 flying hours. His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award ribbon with three oak leaf clusters.
Other awards presented to General Stafford include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, NASA Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, NASA Exceptional Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Chanute Flight Award (1976), the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Space Award, National Geographic Society's General Thomas D. White USAF Space Trophy (1975), and the Federal Aeronautique Internationale Gold Space Medal. In 1966 he was corecipient of the AIAA Award, and in 1969 he received the National Academy of Television Arts and Science Special Trustees Award.
General Stafford has received the Harmon International Aviation Trophy twice. In 1966 he was awarded the trophy for piloting Gemini VI. During this mission he performed the first rendezvous in space and helped develop techniques and basic theory for practical space rendezvous. The 1976 trophy was presented jointly to General Stafford and Colonel Alexei Leonov, Soviet Union cosmonaut, for their work on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. For the first time two spacecraft of different designs, which had been launched from pads 6,500 miles apart, met and docked in space. General Stafford piloted the Apollo craft that was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., and Colonel Leonov piloted the Soviet Soyuz craft that was launched from the Baikonur launch complex, Kazakhstan, U.S.S.R.
In addition General Stafford is the recipient of several honorary degrees. These include a doctorate of science from Oklahoma City University; a doctorate of laws, Western State University, Gunnison, Colo.; a doctorate of communications, Emerson College, Boston, Mass.; and a doctorate of aeronautical engineering, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Fla.
General Stafford was promoted to the grade of lieutenant general on April 1, 1978, with same date of rank.