Cole on Congress with guest General Thomas Stafford
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) recently filmed the latest episode of his television and web show, Cole on Congress. This month’s program featured an interview with Lt. General Thomas Stafford—a former U.S. Air Force officer, test pilot and notable NASA Astronaut from Weatherford. Stafford’s decorated career includes more than 507 hours logged in space and six rendezvous missions.
After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1952, Stafford was commissioned to the U.S. Air Force as a pilot. In 1962, following his enrollment in the Air Force’s Experimental Test Pilot School, he was selected to the second group of pilots that participated in the Gemini and Apollo space projects, including the first American rendezvous around the moon. In 1975, Stafford commanded the American side of the Apollo-Soyuz joint space mission with Russia that is known for the world-famous “handshake in space” that symbolized the end of the Space Race.
“General Stafford is a hero for every Oklahoman, every American and every person around the world who cares about space exploration,” said Cole. “His contributions to all of humanity have been nothing short of remarkable. There is much that can be learned from his rich background and achievements. It was a great privilege to have him on the show.”
During the show, Stafford discussed his career and weighed in on the future of American spaceflight. Excerpts from the conversation are below:
“When I grew up in Weatherford, it was a small town—maybe 3,000 people at the most. It was the end of the dust bowl. People will ask me, ‘Did you always want to be a pilot or astronaut?’ Well, the word ‘astronaut’ hadn’t been invented yet when I was growing up… I always wanted to fly higher and faster,” explained Stafford.
Stafford talked about the importance of resuming American spaceflight to the moon and commented on the Obama Administration’s discontinuation of NASA’s Constellation Program that was intended to send American astronauts to the moon by 2020 and eventually on a manned flight to Mars.
“We had a very good program—the Constellation program—that was put together and was bipartisan… We had it outlined, but this Administration—in my viewpoint—unfortunately cancelled it. Now we’re riding on Russian rockets. Each country, if they’re capable, should have their own capability. I think America is behind as far as boost capability because of some political decisions made.
“When man flies to the moon, there’s a lot of science that can be done there… Space flight revolutionized computing power and a lot of biomedicine. We’re still living off some of that technology level that Apollo pushed us up to.”
To watch the full show, click here.