Earth, the size of an orange

Thomas Stafford, center, commander of the 1969 Apollo 10 mission

Apollo 10 commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford is coming to town, as this morning’s print edition reports.

This is a rare chance to hear from an elite astronaut, and the Stockton Astronomical Society is expecting a big crowd.

Let me share a couple of things I didn’t have room for in print.

Apollo 10 was the first mission to record images in color TV from outer space. According to Stafford, there was more prime time footage from that mission than any of the others — including Apollo 11, the moon landing.

Asked what the most impressive sight was on his journey, Stafford described in memorable terms what it was like to see the Earth shrinking as the spacecraft shot away from it.

“The most impressive sight, I think… is when you first see the Earth,” he told Kennedy Space Center researchers in 1997. “It was awesome. I won’t repeat what we said here on tape. By then, when we (first) saw it, it was about the size of a basketball, and it was just shrinking and going away. It was a really funny feeling.

“At the end of the day it was down to the size of a soccer ball. Wake up the next morning, it’s like a big grapefruit. Finally, by the time you get out to the moon, it’s about the size of an orange.”

You might get a kick out of reading through the transcript of that interview. It’s available here.

And Stafford’s full biography is here.

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    Alex Breitler

    A native of Benicia, he lives in Stockton with his wife, Ann (a Record copyeditor who fixes all of his mistakes). He has been writing mostly about natural resources since 2003, first in Redding and now in Stockton. He is on the lookout for a giant ... Read Full
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