TOUR AMERICA 2019: ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO – LAND OF ENCHANTMENT

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Places We Have Called Home In 2019

Home Is Where We Park It:   Red Barn RV Park, Roswell, New Mexico

September 9, 2019

Temperature 82

Stafford Air and Space Museum

These past few nights are my kind of nights.  The temperatures have been going down into the 60’s which makes for some really comfortable nights for sleeping.  I just hope it stays like this for the foreseeable future.

Not much happening today.  We stayed home and just relaxed.  We got the laundry done.  And I finally was able to make reservations for the parks we’ll be staying at in Arizona for this winter.  It was tough going for a bit.  All the state parks are already booked.  Most private parks it was the same.  But I stuck at and finally my perseverance was rewarded.  Time will tell what these parks are really like.  They all have a 7 or better rating on CampgroundReviews so I’m optimistic.

Tonight we’re going back to Weatherford, OK.  Specifically, back to the Stafford Air and Space Museum.  The Stafford Air & Space Museum is named in honor of Weatherford native and legendary test pilot and astronaut, Lt. General Thomas P. Stafford. The museum is considered as one of the finest and most comprehensive air and space museums in the central United States.

The museum has worked closely with the Smithsonian Institution, NASA, and the U.S. Air Force Museum to assemble one of the finest collections of aerospace artifacts in the central United States. It houses over an acre of exhibits under one roof and showcases thousands of items representing the evolution of aviation and spaceflight.

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The Stafford Air & Space Museum is named in honor of famed fighter pilot, test pilot, author and astronaut Lt. General Thomas P. Stafford.

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Stafford was born in 1930 and raised in Weatherford, OK.

 

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Regarding his childhood in Weatherford he once stated.

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He attended Weatherford High and it was during this time that he began to recognize his own interests and potential.

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He dreamed of going to the prestigious United States Naval Academy and with the help and coaching of his teachers he began to prepare for the rigorous entrance exam.  Stafford applied to the Academy and was accepted to the class of 1952.

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Finishing in the top 25 percent of his class, Stafford was offered a chance to join the newly formed U.S. Air Force.  In 1952, Stafford was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.  Stafford attended the first phase of pilot training at  Greenville AFB, San Marcos AFB, and Connally AFB

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where he flew in addition to other aircraft, the T-33 Shooting Star.

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He always wanted to fly higher and faster, so his natural progression was to move on to test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base.  He graduated in 1959 from the Air Force Experimental Flight Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB, California, receiving the A.B. Honts award as that year’s outstanding graduate.  After graduation, he remained at Edwards AFB as a flight instructor. While working as an instructor, Stafford created the first civilian instructor position at Test Pilot School to ensure continuity, and co-authored the Pilot’s Handbook for Performance Flight Testing and the Aerodynamics Handbook for Performance Flight Testing

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On September 11, 1962, Thomas Stafford was among the second group of astronauts selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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As an astronaut he had a long and distinguished career.

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He first entered space as Pilot on the Gemini VI-A mission on December 15 and 16, 1965.

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The primary mission objective was to rendezvous with the Gemini VII spacecraft, launched eleven days earlier.

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But it almost didn’t happen.  During the first launch attempt the booster engines ignited and then immediately shut down.  This called for the crew to eject which would have destroyed their spacecraft.  But the crew realizing that the rocket had not left the pad elected to stay with their craft.  This decision saved their capsule and avoided possible injury to themselves.

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After a quick fix to the booster they lifted off a few days later and headed toward their rendezvous with the Gemini VII spacecraft.  Stafford helped make the first rendezvous in space, aiding the development of techniques to prove the basic theory and practicality of space rendezvous.

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This is the actual Gemini VI Spacecraft.

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The cockpit.

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A picture of the heat shield.

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This is Stafford’s space suit used in Gemini VI

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From June 3 to 6, 1966, Stafford was Command pilot of Gemini IX

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They performed three different types of rendezvous, including a demonstration of an early rendezvous that would be used in Apollo, including the first optical rendezvous and a lunar or abort rendezvous.

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The three-day mission ended safely after 45 orbits.

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From May 18 to 26, 1969, Thomas Stafford commanded Apollo 10, the first flight of the lunar module to the moon. His crew consisted of Lunar Module pilot Eugene Cernan and Command Module pilot John Young.

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During this “dress-rehearsal” for the Apollo 11 moon landing, Stafford performed the first rendezvous in lunar orbit and the entire lunar landing mission except the actual landing.

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But all didn’t go as planned.  Toward the end of the mission the capsule in which Stafford and Cerman where went into a wild, spinning gyration that nearly spelled the end of the spacecraft and it’s crew.  Stafford, with his pilot skills tested to the limit, finally was able to bring the spacecraft under control.

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During its return to Earth, Apollo 10 orbited the moon for 61 hours and achieved the highest speed ever attained by humans, 24,790 miles per hour.

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Thomas Stafford logged his fourth and final space flight as Apollo commander of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission, July 15 to 24, 1975.

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This was a joint US/USSR space flight, culminating in the historic first meeting in space between Americans and Soviets.  After two days in space, Soyuz and Apollo docked on July 17, where the crews met and conducted joint experiments and held press conferences.

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Stafford and cosmonaut Leonov meet in the docking ring after the docking of the two spacecraft.

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The flight ended successfully after 217 hours in space, though a near-disaster occurred during the final descent of the Apollo module. Due to a malfunctioning valve the crew cabin was flooded with toxic gas from the spacecraft’s thrusters for 30 seconds. Despite the poison fumes Stafford was able to open the valves and save the lives of all aboard. With this, his last mission, Stafford logged a total of 507 hours and 43 minutes in space flight, for which he received the Air Force Command Pilot Astronaut Wings. In 1993, he was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor for saving the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project U.S. crew from fuel intoxication.

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When presented with this medal Stafford said:  This is the greatest honor of my life. I am very proud to have contributed to our nation’s future in space and I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the beginning of America’s venture into the new and endless frontier.

In June 1975, before ASTP, Stafford was offered command of the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB. He accepted and assumed the assignment on November 15, 1975. Stafford oversaw both the Air Force and NASA test facilities at Edwards AFB, as well as test ranges in Utah and Nevada.

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He retired from the Air Force in 1979.

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We’ll end here for now but there is so much more to come.  Stayed tuned to future blogs for the remainder of the tour of this absolutely fantastic museum.  There are so many more exhibits, displays, and planes to see.

That’s it for now on The Road of Retirement.  We’re enjoying our time here just relaxing, reading, and doing odds and ends.  A couple of more days and we’re back on the road again.  But for now we’re just chilling.

Thanks again for joining us today.  We always appreciate your company and your comments.  Catch you tomorrow.

These are the voyages of  Graybeard and it’s two intrepid travelers.  Our continuing mission: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before

See you on down the road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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