January 04, 2019

Museum Review - Stafford Air & Space Museum

For my birthday this year, my girlfriend and I visited the Stafford Air & Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Weatherford, about an hour west of Oklahoma City on I-40, is the birthplace of Gemini and Apollo astronaut Tom Stafford. They like him very much there, and assembled an air and space museum in his honor. It's much better than a museum of this type in a place like Weatherford (birthplace of Tom Stafford, population about 11,000) has any right to be.

Lord Nelson and me in a simulator at the Stafford Museum
Type: Air and space museum and astronaut shrine
Location: Weatherford, Oklahoma (Birthplace of Tom Stafford)
Rating: 4.3/5, A very solid museum with some really cool stuff
Price: $7 for normal adults


The F-104 outside the museum

The Stafford museum isn't huge, but it's very well done. Outside, there are a couple of planes on static display, including an F-104 pointing at the sky. Inside, after you take the turnoff for the Tom Stafford Museum instead of the Tom Stafford Airport (he's from Weatherford, you know), you start with a chamber devoted to Stafford's life outside of NASA, both before and after. (My one criticism is that the layout of the exhibits is not very intuitive. I suspect this is the result of a somewhat haphazard expansion campaign.) Then there's a room talking about his time at NASA, including his four spaceflights.

Me with the Gemini 6 Capsule

Stafford's first flight was on Gemini 6A, the first flight to rendezvous with another spacecraft. After a couple of false starts, Stafford and Wally Schirra met up with Gemini 7 and flew in close formation. He flew again a few months later as the commander of Gemini 9A, which included the second American spacewalk (by his pilot, Gene Cernan). His third mission was Apollo 10, the dress rehearsal for the first lunar landing. Stafford and Cernan took the Lunar Module down to 8.4 miles above the lunar surface, then docked again with John Young in the command module. His last mission was the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Stafford and two others docked in orbit with a Soyuz carrying two cosmonauts. It was the last mission of the Apollo project, and an important moment during the Cold War.

A replica Bleriot XI monoplane, the first airplane to fly the English Channel

Beyond that room is the main museum. It starts with a hall dedicated to the beginning of flight, including several very nice replicas of early planes. There's also a large spaceflight gallery, with lots of artifacts, most notably a wide array of rocket engines from a V-2 engine to an F-1 from the first stage of the Saturn V. The highlight, though, is the actual capsule from Gemini 6A, next to a Titan II lying on its side. There's also an Apollo CSM mockup, and some shuttle artifacts. On the way out, there's an F-86, a MiG-21, a T-38 and an F-16. This section is all very well done, although a bit dated. They have a lovely collection of booster models, but it includes a Falcon 5, since cancelled, and the "Future" section has the Ares I and IV from the Constellation program, which was cancelled in 2009.

Decommissioned B-61 nuclear weapon

If you're on I-40 going through Weatherford (home of astronaut Tom Stafford!) and can spare the three hours, the museum is absolutely worth your time. It's probably the single best attraction I've seen in over a year in Oklahoma.1 I can't say that you should travel to Oklahoma specifically to see it, but that's more because there isn't that much other stuff to do in this state.

1 This was true at the time of writing, although it has since been eclipsed by the Army Artillery Museum at Fort Sill.


  1. January 04, 2019Lord Nelson said...

    What an informative review! I had no idea that Tom Stafford was from Weatherford, Oklahoma.

  2. January 04, 2019The Fatherly One said...

    Lord Nelson, cute.....

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