Updated: Apr 17, 2020
What does a very active former astronaut in his late 80’s do for fun on a Saturday night? For Lt. General Thomas P. Stafford, a fun evening is spending all night on an airboat in the Florida Everglades searching out his first alligator. An avid hunter and outdoorsman for his entire adult life, Stafford took advantage of his inaugural hunt, and bagged the largest gator taken so far this year in Florida – a behemoth 12 foot, 2 inch, 425-pound reptile. What made this even more spectacular is he speared the gator using a laser-sighted crossbow.
Alligator hunting season in Florida begins in August and runs through November, giving General Stafford the perfect widow of opportunity for his first hunt to celebrate his 88th birthday. Stafford is a veteran of four space missions, including a flight to the moon. He has had more than his share of exciting and challenging moments and experiences, including accomplishing the first space rendezvous, the historic “handshake in space” with Soviet cosmonauts during the first international space mission, setting the all-time human speed record on Apollo 10, and wrestling an out-of-control Lunar Module in lunar orbit. To wrestle a 425-pound gator into an airboat in the middle of the night in a swamp has to rate right up there with many of his “Right Stuff” moments.
Just two days later, General Stafford boarded a flight to Moscow to attend a week-long meeting of American and Russian Federation space officials to review the safety standards for the International Space Station. Stafford continues to serve as the long-time chair of this highly important oversight committee, and continues to serve as key liaison between NASA and the Russian space programs. He also stays active in the aerospace arena, and serves as a consultant to several major aerospace corporations. In his free time, General Stafford stays quite active in the ongoing development of the Stafford Air & Space Museum in his hometown of Weatherford, Oklahoma that has evolved into a facility that is gaining regional and national recognition.
Tom Stafford is a man who never stops, and is a living icon of the very best this country has to offer. He continues to demonstrate how to live life to its fullest, and to use his skills, knowledge and intellect in a never-ending way to serve his country – something he has done, and continues to do, for his entire adult life.