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Oklahoma Astronaut Looking to the Future of Space Exploration

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Oklahoma native General Tom Stafford was the commander of Apollo 10, which helped pave the way for the Apollo 11 moon landing. Oklahoma native General Tom Stafford was the commander of Apollo 10, which helped pave the way for the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Stafford said space exploration could be an economic boost referring to the Apollo missions in the '60s and '70s that employed more than 400,000 people. Stafford said space exploration could be an economic boost referring to the Apollo missions in the '60s and '70s that employed more than 400,000 people.

By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9

WEATHERFORD, Oklahoma -- An Oklahoma astronaut who played a vital role in man's first walk on the moon is now working to keep space exploration on the minds of Americans and its leaders.

Apollo 10 was one of several key missions that paved the way for man walking on the moon. Oklahoma native General Tom Stafford was the commander of that mission in May of 1969. A few months later in July of 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.

But not since 1972 has man stepped foot on the moon, and that's something General Stafford has a hard time understanding. He said if the country had the same passion it did when man first went to the moon, man would have walked on Mars by now.

"The amount you spend on NASA and space exploration is very small even when you compare it to the rest of the budget. It is small indeed. One penny out of a dollar, so that's not very much," said Stafford.

Stafford points to the Apollo missions in the 60's and 70's as a reason to continue exploring space, even when times are tough.

"Every bit of those dollars spent were here in the U.S. employing 400,000 plus people, and they were paying taxes. It was a great economic stimulus," Stafford said.

He said a little focus could literally go a long way.

"What you had for the tarp bailout would send us way past mars," Stafford said.

Stafford said NASA's tops officials are currently working on plans that will highlight where they would like to see the space program go in the coming decades.

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