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  Why didn't Tom Stafford go back to the moon?

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Author Topic:   Why didn't Tom Stafford go back to the moon?
butch wilks
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From: Lowestoft, Suffolk, UK
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posted 12-24-2008 01:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for butch wilks   Click Here to Email butch wilks     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why did Tom Stafford not go back to the moon after the Apollo 10 mission and why he did not go back in to space until the Apollo-Soyuz mission?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-24-2008 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This topic was touched on in an earlier thread by Charles Klofas (cklofas):
Stafford has said that he was looking post-NASA after Apollo 10. He wanted to gain some management experience and diversify his resume a bit. Since NASA would send him to business school, why not?

JasonB
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posted 06-05-2011 01:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for JasonB   Click Here to Email JasonB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Why didn't Stafford walk on Moon? Young and Cernan got to go but he didn't. Was there a reason for this?

I seem to recall reading something about him going with Shepard but it got nixed, but I may be wrong on that. Just wondering as I don't know the answer.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

chappy
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posted 06-05-2011 02:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for chappy   Click Here to Email chappy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Maybe the reason for Stafford to not go back to the Moon is because, maybe I'm wrong on this, once an astronaut commands an Apollo mission, there is no chance for astronaut to command another Apollo mission. But with Conrad did command Apollo twice, Apollo 12 and Skylab 2... wonder to know why?

alanh_7
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posted 06-05-2011 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Stafford also commanded a second Apollo Mission. The U.S. crew for the Apollo Soyuz Test Project.

I may be wrong I have read, when Shepard was put in the pipeline with Apollo 13/14, Deke asked Stafford to take over running day to day operations in the Astronaut Office. Stafford wanted to get some management experience and thought it was a good time to take himself out of the crew lineup since most of the moon landing crews had been assigned.

When ASTP came up Deke wanted to command that mission, but NASA wanted a veteran in charge of the U.S. crew, and asked Stafford to take command with Deke as docking pilot and Vance Brand as CM pilot. So Stafford agreed and took the mission command, putting him in a command position over his boss in the Astronaut Office Deke.

Rusty B
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posted 06-05-2011 03:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rusty B   Click Here to Email Rusty B     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking at the Google newspaper archive for 1970 to 1972...

Reading, PA Eagle newspaper, Mar 27, 1970, in an article titled, America's Space Corps Breaking Up, about the shrinking number of future spaceflights at that point:

"I've got about a 50-50 chance to go to the moon," said Stafford. "I'll wait until the spring of 1972. You should be able to see ahead for the next decade in space at that point."
Then in 1972, Rome, NY News, May 28, 1972, Space program overflowing with astronauts:
"We decided not to fly 25 lunar and 15 Skylab missions", Slayton said. "We only need 9 to 12 men and we've got 45."

JasonB
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posted 06-06-2011 10:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for JasonB   Click Here to Email JasonB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the info. I guess it's understandable that he wouldn't be able to command another mission but I still don't understand how he wasn't able to go as LMP when both Young and Cernan were going back. Maybe he didn't want to do that or they just wanted to give more people a chance.

What I REALLY don't understand is McDivitt. He turned down Apollo 8 AND Apollo 13/14?

Fra Mauro
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posted 06-06-2011 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think either man had a burning desire to land on the moon. The article about the shrinking astronaut corps does remind me of today in a sense. Stafford's crew didn't do a great job on ASTP, with the mishaps during docking and landing.

canyon42
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posted 06-06-2011 02:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for canyon42   Click Here to Email canyon42     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't see anything unusual about McDivitt's choices, at least from the point of view of a test pilot. Apollo 8 will "go down in history" far more than Apollo 9, but every account I've ever read agrees that Apollo 9 was a far more challenging mission from a piloting standpoint. It was also just as important (if not more so) as Apollo 8 in relation to the eventual goal of a moon landing, even if it was ultimately less symbolic.

As for Apollo 13/14, for McDivitt to be asked to serve as the LMP had to be seen by him (and probably the other astronauts) as a definite drop in status. McDivitt had at that point commanded two multi-crewman missions, compared to a 15-minute solo suborbital shot by Shepard. Regardless of where one stands on the question of Shepard "cutting to the front of the line," or on his eventual performance on the lunar science objectives on Apollo 14, being told that you were outranked by someone with far less time and experience in space had to rankle.

In the end, it seems that to McDivitt his personal goals centered around the piloting and command challenges of the missions rather than any strong desire to walk on the moon. From that perspective, declining to serve as a subordinate after commanding his own missions, even if it meant giving up a chance to be a moonwalker, makes more sense, at least to me.

Fra Mauro
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posted 06-06-2011 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
However, it could be argued that Shepard has seniority in rank of being a member of the Original 7. I think if McDivitt saw walking on the moon as the ultimate prize, he would have swallowed his pride (if that was the deciding factor).

Skylon
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posted 06-06-2011 09:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Skylon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JasonB:
What I REALLY don't understand is McDivitt. He turned down Apollo 8 AND Apollo 13/14?
In addition to what has been said, he was never truly offered Apollo 8. McDivitt believes if he made a serious issue of it, Slayton would have flown McDivitt's crew on Apollo 8, but the offer was never really made. According to McDivitt, Slayton told McDivitt of the mission change for Apollo 8, and that he wanted McDivitt to stick with the first LM flight, but he wasn't going to force him.

That's a pretty vague statement if those were Deke's words. And honestly, "I'm not going to force you" could just as easily mean "If you don't accept this, your whole crew could end up reassigned." I'm more inclined to McDivitt's interpretation, just saying.

alanh_7
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posted 06-06-2011 09:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess the same could be said for Frank Borman. I am sure he could have also been given command of a lunar landing. But I suspect he viewed the missions that built up to the landings just as a important as the landing itself from a flight test perspective and opted to call it a day after Apollo 8.

Tykeanaut
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posted 06-07-2011 02:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tykeanaut   Click Here to Email Tykeanaut     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
McDivitt was already trained for Apollo 9 and the LEM. For whatever reason/s it appears he also did not like the idea of flying with Shepard.
Stafford preferred to choose management above more flights by becoming Chief Astronaut.

Paul23
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posted 06-07-2011 04:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Paul23   Click Here to Email Paul23     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I won't repeat the word that McDivitt used at Autographica when asked if he would have served as an LMP on a moon landing, but he didn't seem 'on board' with the idea! His view was he had commanded two spaceflights and wouldn't have accepted a subordinate role to any mission commander.

He did also say though that his decision to walk away from spaceflight was a combination of wanting to get into management and the time spent away from home and working long hours while on the flight rota was starting to take its toll.

Hard to know of course if that differs from what he thinks privately but that was the view expressed by the man himself!

Kite
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posted 06-07-2011 02:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kite     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I can confirm what Paul23 says is true. I was there as well. Glad he didn't repeat the word General McDivitt used, and I wont either, with regards of flying with Al Shepard.

Mike Isbell
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posted 07-30-2011 01:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Mike Isbell     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
One other thing about the Apollo 8 flight should not be overlooked. At the time the decision was made to fly the first LM on Apollo 9 rather than Apollo 8 (I believe in August of 1968), the type of mission that Apollo 8 would fly with the CSM only was far from certain.

It was not until after the successful flight of Apollo 7 in October 1968 that the decision was made to have Apollo 8 orbit the moon instead of Apollo 10 being the first lunar orbital mission.

Therefore, at the time of the crew change, had Gen. McDivitt remained the commander of Apollo 8 there was a high likelihood that he would be flying on an Earth orbital mission, launched by a Saturn V, without a LM.

Lou Chinal
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posted 07-30-2011 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
You have to remember that in August of 1968 nobody knew Apollo 11 would make the first landing.

cosmos-walter
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posted 07-31-2011 04:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cosmos-walter   Click Here to Email cosmos-walter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In 1969 most people expected that Russian cosmonauts would land on the moon soon and astronauts would fly to Mars within 20 years. Being a moon-walker became a big issue, because no human being flew to the moon after Apollo 17 in 1972.

Tom
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posted 07-31-2011 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Tom   Click Here to Email Tom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It would be interesting if Stafford was offered the LMP position on Apollo 13/14, as McDivitt "supposedly" was.

With Stafford originally paired with Shepard on the original Gemini 3 flight, you have to wonder if he would have accepted.

Fra Mauro
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posted 08-01-2011 09:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Fra Mauro   Click Here to Email Fra Mauro     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My guess is no, since Stafford had already been a CDR twice and in a sense was Shepard's boss, since he was an adminstrator. It does make you wonder what affect he might have had on the 2 lunar EVAs.

Jay Chladek
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posted 08-02-2011 10:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In Stafford's case, he COULD have gone to the moon if he had followed the advice of George Mueller that if they were going to the moon, they should take LM-5 along since it would be pretty much ready and if they took it along, they might as well land. Tom nixed that idea since he knew it was going to be a full testing flight plan and they had a lot of unknowns they had to deal with first.

The thing to keep in mind about any job, even one as seemingly as glamorous as an astronaut is people do jobs for different reasons and reasons change over the years. Stafford had flown two Gemini flights essentially back to back due to the loss of Elliot See and Charlie Bassett. That meant he had to do a lot of training for a good chunk of time. Follow that with his Apollo 10 crew being involved in early Apollo testing as I believe the backups to Schirra's crew (intended for the second Apollo flight until it was cancelled). Throw in the Apollo 1 fire and the period of spacecraft redesign and by the end of that, going back to the end of the pipeline for another spaceflight after Apollo 10 probably didn't necessarily seem like as enjoyable an endeavor for somebody who had three spaceflights and had likely contributed all that they felt they would contribute as a test pilot (going back to helping NASA select the T-38 as the astronaut trainer jet). Besides, does somebody want to be known for all their contributions, or JUST walking on the moon? Stafford to me seems to be want to be known for more than just flying in space. You can see it in the management and consulting jobs he's taken after he's left NASA.

Stafford getting ASTP was kind of a lucky set of circumstances as much as anything. Stafford was available to go to the USSR to help with the ceremony to bury the Soyuz 11/Salyut 1 cosmonauts and the Soviets accepted him as a paul bearer for the procession (first time that ever happened). As such, he scored some great political points and his face became more familiar to several in the Soviet space program (and the general Russian public). So, he seemed like a natural to get selected as the CDR for the ASTP flight.

Beau08
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posted 08-02-2012 11:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Beau08   Click Here to Email Beau08     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was wondering why Thomas Stafford, as a veteran astronaut with multiple Gemini and Apollo missions under his belt, was never on one of the moon landing attempts? While relatively new astronauts such as Bean, Haise and Duke were offered the opportunity to walk on the Moon. Was he slated for Apollo 18, 19 or 20? Seems strange he would pop back into the rotation in ASTP.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

Michael Cassutt
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posted 08-03-2012 12:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Cassutt   Click Here to Email Michael Cassutt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Stafford commanded Apollo 10, of course and could easily have remained in the rotation, possibly backing up Apollo 13 and flying on 16 — or, had Shepard not returned to flight status in spring 1969, going from 10 directly to 13.

But Shepard did return, was originally assigned to 13 (before the HQ-mandated swap with Lovell) and Stafford was offered the chance to be chief of the astronaut office. Having flown around the Moon already, he felt he had taken enough chances; he wasn't especially eager to go through another backup tour and spend another two years in training. Being chief astronaut was also a possible stepping stone to a NASA management job or to a political career, options he was weighing in 1969-70.

Stafford wasn't the only astronaut who chose not to pursue a lunar landing. Borman and McDivitt made similar decisions around the same time.

Michael Cassutt, co-author of WE HAVE CAPTURE

SkyMan1958
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posted 08-03-2012 01:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Let's not forget Stafford was a military man. Getting management experience under his belt certainly helped him along his career path. After all, he ended up as a lieutenant general (e.g. 3 stars).

mark plas
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posted 08-03-2012 01:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mark plas   Click Here to Email mark plas     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am wondering if in retrospect they think they made the right decision. I can understand in those days you were in some kind of train and a moon landing seemed a little less special than it does today.

Jay Chladek
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posted 08-03-2012 06:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The concepts of the "right" and "wrong" decisions are always going to be arbitrary to the individual. While Stafford hasn't directly said anything, based on what I have read and heard in his interviews (including one he conducted for NASA's ASTP history in 1976 after he returned to the USAF) he didn't have any regrets about the decision he made and was more than happy with the contributions he made.

Walking on the moon is in some ways like preparations to become an Olympic athlete. There are long hours and the goal (be it walking on the moon or winning a gold medal)can only be shared by a relative few. But everyone is a little different and in the end it is still just one point in a person's life whether they accomplish that goal or not. Once one gets back from the big show, they still have to go on living the rest of their lives.

garymilgrom
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posted 08-03-2012 06:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As enthusiasts we see walking on the moon as the ultimate goal in the "game" of spaceflight. But to the people in the Apollo program many understood the game was political and that beating the Russians was the real goal.

I believe Stafford and Borman both thought the game was over after Apollo 11 and wanted to move forward after "the Americans won". I think they saw little point in repeating dangerous flights and had little interest in the science.

Duke Of URL
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posted 04-01-2013 06:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Duke Of URL   Click Here to Email Duke Of URL     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was wondering if anybody knew if Tom Stafford declined a lunar landing mission. One reason I ask is that both his crew mates flew landing flights.

Another is to ask if Capt. Cernan's selection for Apollo 17 (and keeping it after the helicopter incident and the pressure to substitute Dr. Schmitt — and maybe the whole crew — was a matter of Gen. Stafford being his mentor/protector.

Editor's note: Threads merged.

alanh_7
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posted 04-01-2013 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for alanh_7   Click Here to Email alanh_7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had the privilege of sitting next to Tom and Linda Stafford at the 2009 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation dinner and was able to ask him if the opportunity was there to return to the moon. He said he felt it was, had he chose that route. He said following a string of steady flight assignments as both prime and backup crews, he wanted to become involved in management.

While remaining on flight status, he took over as head of the Astronaut Office and then Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations. By the time he returned to flight assignment for ASTP the moon program was over. I asked if he had any regrets about not going back to the moon and he said perhaps a little, but over all it had been a hell of a career and he was happy with that. Amen.

Lunar_module_5
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posted 04-02-2013 04:36 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having put together the Apollo 10 full mission videos and listened to all of the comm between MCC and Apollo 10, it is very apparent, when listening to Tom on the air-to-ground, that he was an enthusiastic CDR who was fascinated about where he was and wanted to share it with the rest of us.

If he had gone back I can only imagine what that mission would have been like.

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