Lawmakers Honor Oklahoma Astronaut Who Flew To The Moon
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma astronaut who flew the first lunar module to the moon received a big honor Tuesday.
General Tom Stafford's mother came to Oklahoma in a covered wagon and lived to see her son fly to the moon.
Tuesday, lawmakers proclaimed it Thomas Stafford Day and held a special ceremony at the capitol.
Stafford told lawmakers that man's fascination with the moon is as old as history itself.
"It's always there - in hieroglyphic writings and all that. But the moon, what was it, would anybody ever go there," he said.
As a young boy, Stafford asked himself those same questions. The moon was one of the last things he'd see before falling asleep, outside to beat the summer heat.
"It always looked so close, but I never thought that I'd ever go there," Stafford said.
But, he did.
The Weatherford native flew four historic space missions in the Gemini and Apollo projects. It's the Apollo 10 mission that led to mankind's "giant leap."
Stafford said it's a twist of fate that Neil Armstrong made the first footprints in the lunar soil.
"Originally, I had the lunar module that Neil had," he said.
But, the space race with the Soviet Union forced NASA to change plans.
Stafford said, "Then came Apollo 10. I flew the first lunar module there, with my co-pilot. Too heavy to land, unfortunately, or you'd had an Okie hunting the moon."
Instead, his crew took pictures, mapped the terrain and chose landing sites for future missions.
On the way home, Stafford set an all-time speed record - the equivalent of mock 37, or seven miles a second.
"You could go from my hometown in Weatherford to Oklahoma City out here in about nine seconds. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol would never touch you," Stafford laughed.
During Tuesday's ceremony, lawmakers unveiled a painting of Stafford that will hang at the capitol.
Stafford is also the first astronaut to become a General; he retired as a three-star. He was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a commander during a joint mission with the Soviet Union.
The lawmaker who wrote Tuesday's proclamation noted there are more astronauts from Oklahoma than any other state.