Interview with General Thomas Stafford (Gemini 6, Gemini 9, Apollo 10, and ASTP)

On May 19th, I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down for an interview with the legendary Gen. Tom Stafford, at his name sake museum in Weatherford, OK, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the flight of Apollo 10.  General Stafford grew up in Weatherford and the museum and local airport carry his name.  The Stafford Air & Space Museum played host to an exclusive gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 10 on May 18th.  Through the much appreciated efforts of Museum Director, Max Ary and his staff, arrangements were made for me to interview The General the next morning.

We set up the interview at the base of his actual Gemini 6 spacecraft, an incredible backdrop for our conversation.

General Stafford is among the space pioneer elite, having been selected to NASA as one of the “New Nine” – the second group of astronauts after the Mercury 7.  He graciously sat for the interview for about an hour before he had to prepare for a public talk he was to give at the local high school.

I was able to ask him questions about all of his missions.  From his first, GT-6, which featured the first rendezvous of two spacecraft, to his last, the Apollo-Soyuz test Project (ASTP) and the first docking of two international spacecraft.  In between, he confronted angry alligators; endured spacewalks from hell; barnstormed the moon, brought a tumbling spaceship back under control, and he became (as he remains to this day) the fastest man alive.  I also asked him about the significance and legacy of Apollo, the lessons and implications for humanity from international cooperation and seeing the Earth from space, and his thoughts on the future.

We were also fortunate to record his public talk, a Q&A session with Mark Larson, where Stafford shared even more stories.

Between my interview and the public event, we now have over two hours of footage to sift through from two cameras in two different locations.  Neither setting was without its share of technical issues, but after an initial glance of what we were able to capture, I am confident that by the late summer or early fall we will be able to release the third film in our “Apollo Reflections” series.  In addition to the interview and public event, we recorded numerous exhibits in the museum to use in the film, and of course we have the entire catalog of fully restored ultra-high resolution images from all of Stafford’s missions to select and incorporate – so check back for updates!

I enjoyed Gen. Stafford’s many animated stories, including the UFO sighting shortly after Gemini 6 rendezvoused with Gemini 7 and the story behind the “Beat Army” sign.  His response to the lasting impact of seeing the full Earth from space was sincere and touching. I very much appreciated the opportunity to spend some time with him and I admire his boundless energy.

Also a big thank you to Max Ary and the staff at the Stafford Air& Space Museum for their incredible assistance!