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Departures

Thomas Stafford & Paul Alexander


Thomas Stafford (left) and Paul Alexander Stafford: NASA; Alexander: Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News via AP

Departures
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Thomas Stafford

Stafford, a veteran NASA astronaut known for his 1975 handshake in space with a Soviet cosmonaut, died March 18 at age 93. Stafford first went to space as part of NASA’s Gemini program in 1965. In 1969, he commanded Apollo 10, a mission to orbit the moon and find a landing spot for the famed Apollo 11. The flight made Stafford one of only 24 astronauts to fly to the moon. In 1975, Stafford commanded the American side of a joint U.S.–Soviet Union mission called Apollo-Soyuz that featured spacecraft from both nations docking in space. After the two craft docked, Stafford shook the hand of cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, a gesture that symbolized thawing relations between the two countries.


Paul Alexander

A victim of childhood polio who became a reputable Dallas lawyer, Alexander died March 11. He was 78. After a polio diagnosis in 1952 at age 6, Alexander became paralyzed and began living in an iron lung. A therapist eventually taught him to use his throat muscles to force air into his lungs, permitting Alexander enough freedom to spend hours at a time outside the iron lung and ultimately earn a law degree from the University of Texas in 1984. Later in life, Alexander gave up his law practice when he became unable to live outside the machine. Instead, he wrote a book about his life in the lung. At his time of death, Alexander was one of just two Americans living in the device.

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