Yesterday, NASA astronaut Thomas P. Stafford (September 17th, 1930 – March 18th, 2024) passed away at age 93. Stafford was one of the 24 astronauts who flew to the Moon. Before the Apollo program, he was part of the Gemini 6A and Gemini 9A missions.

Apollo 10 astronaut Tom Stafford touches Snoopy for good luck just before the launch on May 18th, 1969 — Image: NASA.

Apollo 10 “Snoopy”

Tom Stafford was the commander of the Apollo 10 mission, which was considered the “dress rehearsal” for the Moon landing (Apollo 11). Apollo 10 took place right before Apollo 11 from May 18th, 1969, to May 26th, 1969. This particular mission was also where the Peanuts characters Charlie Brown and Snoopy were used for the Command Service Module and Lunar Module, respectively. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz was a big fan and follower of the NASA program and contributed artwork to NASA.

Stafford gives the Silver Snoopy lapel pin to Omega’s Hans Widmer — Image: NASA

In 1968, NASA chose the famous beagle as an icon to act as a “watchdog” over its missions. That year, NASA also decided to use a sterling silver Snoopy pin to show appreciation to NASA employees and contractors. The award also included a commendation letter and a signed and framed Snoopy certificate.

Stafford and Leonov during their encounter in space in 1975 — Image: NASA


By 1975, Stafford had already been promoted to Brigadier General at NASA and was part of the last crewed space mission before the Space Shuttle program in 1981. Apollo-Soyuz (officially Apollo-Soyuz Test Project) was a joint mission between NASA and the Soviet space program, and many scientific experiments were on its agenda. However, the most important thing was the ability to connect (dock) the spacecraft from the two nations. And this happened on July 17th, 1975. Tom Stafford and Alexey Leonov, commanders from both countries, had their first handshake in space through the open hatch of the Soyuz spacecraft. Leonov and Stafford became friends for life.

Stafford wearing his gold Speedmaster Professional no. 13 (of 1014) — Image: NASA


After (General) Stafford retired from NASA in 1979, he took several roles at different companies and initiatives. One of his roles was joining Omega as board of directors chairman.

Gold Moonwatch models

I had the privilege of meeting Mr Stafford twice, first during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 and later during a Speedmaster event in Houston. The first time I met him, he was wearing his gold Omega Speedmaster Professional with his name engraved on the case band. I was wearing that same watch (at a later event at which we were both present), and I distinctly remember how he spoke about the watch with great pride.

Thomas P. Stafford

He also told me that he had been involved in developing the original Speedmaster X-33 (1998). Although he was already quiet elderly then, his mind was incredibly clear, and he had many remarkable memories to share about both NASA and Omega.

Philip Corneille has opened a wonderful topic with many images on Stafford on the Omega Forums platform; click here to check it out.

Rest in peace, Mr. Stafford.

*Header image by Omega. Stafford (left) and Leonov (right) waving.