Apollo the Turtle Makes Headlines

apollo 3

The Stafford Air and Space Museum recently made the front page of the Weatherford Daily News, but for a totally different reason. The following is the article about the museum’s mascot, Apollo the Turtle.

Making his home at the Weatherford Stafford Air and Space museum, Apollo the Turtle lives a happy life in the Rachel and Noble Amen Courtyard.

“To this day we have no idea how he got into the courtyard,” said Max Ary, Museum Director.

For as long as any staff member has been at the museum, Apollo has lived in the enclosed courtyard. He has become his own exhibit at he museum with guests eagerly waiting for him to out and eat his lunch every day. Apollo has his own story posted on the courtyard window, as well as merchandise available in the museum’s gift shop.

Once or twice a day, Apollo will crawl out the garden mulch and make an appearance at the courtyard door. Staff members then feed him healthy servings of lettuce, cheese, and apples.

Apollo never leaves his home in the courtyard, but he is not alone said Brandi Rizzi, Museum Marketing Coordinator. Apollo is joined by several frogs, lizards and birds. Ary said every spring there’s a contest for which staff member sees him first.

“He has adopted us,” said Brandi Rizzi. “He owns the courtyard.”

Museum visitors and children can view Apollo from the courtyard window, or enjoy a picnic lunch in Apollo’s home. The Rahcel and Noble Amen Courtyard is opened for the public to use during the museum hours. The courtyard was made available by the donations from area locals, Rachel and Nobel Amen.

Rizzi said the museum is hoping to add more wildlife friends additions to the courtyard including a birdhouse. If anyone creates birdhouses would like to donate to the courtyard contact Rizzi at  772-5871

By | 2017-08-11T04:13:30+00:00 August 15th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Apollo the Turtle Makes Headlines

The Last Man Standing…

It’s not many museums that would boast about having a bottle of Russian Vodka on exhibit, but the Stafford Air and Space Museum proudly uses one as a centerpiece of a wonderful display with a great story behind it.
Forty years ago, the world still hung on the edge of nuclear annihilation as the world’s two great superpowers—the United States and the Soviet Union—continued to square off in a “Cold War” that had lasted for nearly a half century. World tensions remained on a continuous hair-trigger as the potential of nuclear war and the concept of “mutual destruction” played out—several times coming to the brink of World War III.

In an effort to explore ways to defuse this dangerous tension, U.S. President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev took great political risks by signing an agreement in 1972 to attempt a joint spaceflight in which three American astronauts would link up in space with two Soviet Cosmonauts in a mission that would become known as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, or ASTP. A great deal was put on the line with this attempted agreement. A successful mission could serve as a template for additional joint programs that could further thaw the “Cold War” stand–off. On the other hand, a failure of pulling this complex mission off could further plunge the world into a deeper political divide.
To create trust among two countries that had bitter enemies for decades, with two radically different ideologies and beliefs, was going to be a monumental challenge. Great thought was given by both countries to the personalities they would select for their flight crews. The Soviets selected two veteran space flyers—flight engineer Valeri Kubasov, and as their commander, legendary cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first person to walk in space. The Americans would select General Tom Stafford, one of this nation’s most experienced and skilled astronauts to command two rookie astronauts, Deke Slayton and Vance Brand. Close friendships were quickly forged among these five individuals that would transcend all political divisions, and would establish the mind-set for the thousands of other engineers, technicians, and scientists on both sides that were tasked in making the ASTP mission a success.


In July, 1975, both crews—working together as an international team—successfully linked their spacecraft together in Earth orbit in an unprecedented international event. As the hatch door opened, and the crews could see each other in person for the first time in the mission, Leonov and Stafford came together and shook hands. It would become known as the famous “handshake in space.” This mission would prove to both countries that, in spite of their differences, common ground could be found to work together in peace and harmony. For his extraordinary efforts in leading this effort, Tom Stafford would be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, many historians credit the ASTP mission as the beginning of the end of the “Cold War” and one of its many legacies was the creation of the International Space Station in which Russians and Americans along with astronauts from more than a dozen countries, have continually flown together in space, conducting countless scientific experiments and making discoveries that will benefit all of mankind.

The friendships of the Apollo-Soyuz crew members would transcend time. All five would continue to consider each other as “brothers” and would often gather long after their retirements. A lasting symbol of this friendship, and the impact it would have on world history, is an ordinary, unopened bottle of Russian Vodka on display in the Stafford Museum’s Apollo Gallery. Borrowing a time-honored military tradition called a “Tontine,” all five of the Apollo-Soyuz crew, in a spirit of brotherhood, signed the bottle of vodka shortly before the launch of the ASTP mission in 1975. The bottle will remain unopened as long as there is at least two crew members sill living. When the time comes when only a single crew member remains, he will journey to the Stafford Museum, open the bottle of Vodka on display, and make a final toast to his four “brothers” that went before, and to the incredible legacy they had left to the world. Today, three of the ASTP crew still survive—Tom Stafford, Vance Brand, and Alexei Leonov. Deke Slayton died of a malignant brain tumor in 1993 and Valeri Kubasov died of heart problems earlier this year.

By | 2017-08-11T04:13:30+00:00 July 31st, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on The Last Man Standing…

Tech Trek Takes Over Museum for 2nd Year

Forty-seven, bright and enthusiastic young ladies from across the entire state of Oklahoma attended the second annual Tech Trek hosted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) in Weatherford, OK. Tech Trek is a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) camp designed for girls entering the eighth grade. It is to encourage and demonstrate the knowledge of STEM to young girls who have an interest in those fields and encourages girls to begin a path toward pursuing a STEM career and college degree. The one week long camp features different classes and hands-on activities each day designed around STEM.
On Friday, Tech Trek spent the last full day of camp at the Stafford Air and Space Museum. There, the campers were introduced to the history and principles of flight and space science.
Camp Director and AAUW Weatherford Branch President Lisa Appeddu was happy to involve the museum in the curriculum of the camp.
She stated, “The Field Trip at the Stafford Air and Space Museum is the highpoint of the week for Tech Trek at SWOSU. The campers really enjoy the interactive exhibits and teaching style of the museum staff. Plus, the girls have a lot of fun applying what they learned during the week in their STEM core courses and workshops to aerospace concepts. Western Oklahoma is very fortunate to have such a wonderful resource as the Stafford Air and Space Museum.”
The campers were divided into two groups led by Museum Director Max Ary and Museum Curator Tanner Wheeler. One group learned about the basics of flight beginning with a tour of the aviation galleries inside the museum. Curator Wheeler led the flight principles class and performed demonstrations of the Bernoulli Effect and gravity, teaching the campers how airplanes fly.
The second group, led by Director Ary, was introduced to space and rocketry. Ary provided a tour of the rockets and engines inside the museum before demonstrating the steering of a rocket using a powered fan. He also explained the use of the different fuels used to power rockets by both liquid and solid fuel.
After a fun lunch of pizza and pop, the campers began the second half of their day at the museum by switching classes. An unscheduled surprise brought additional excitement to the day as another Osprey from the Bell-Boeing Factory from Amarillo, Texas, flew in to the Stafford Airport to perform several touch and go’s and practice maneuvers. The campers went outside to see the Osprey, for most of the campers it was their first time to see such an aircraft. The Osprey’s pilot tipped the aircraft’s wings as acknowledgement to the waiving campers.
Later in the day, the Tech Trek camp came back together for a final lesson to learn about living in space. It was here the museum staff performed additional demonstrations to show just how fragile a human body is in space. Demos included using liquid nitrogen and freezing a rose petal (similar to human skin) and showing the frail petal being frozen in seconds then being crumbled to pieces. The same method was applied to freezing a ping pong ball (representing a human eyeball). It was a smash hit with the campers.
At the end of their adventure inside the museum, the campers gathered for group pictures at the Apollo Boilerplate and F-4 Phantom.
The museum would like to thank the members of AAUW for designing the camp and for including the museum.
For more information about Tech Trek or AAUW, you can visit http://techtrek-ok.aauw.net/ or check out their Facebook page www.facebook.com/AAUWTechTrek .

By | 2015-04-01T19:28:45+00:00 July 23rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Tech Trek Takes Over Museum for 2nd Year

Museum to Host Summer Story Time

The Stafford Air and Space Museum invites all children entering 2nd grade down to two years of age to the Museum Wednesdays this July for a summer story time special event.

Beginning on July 2, at 3pm, the Stafford Museum will host a story time inside its Education Center. The series will be held every Wednesday during the month of July, concluding on July 30th.

Each week the museum story time will feature a different theme beginning with aviation. Selected themes include astronauts, rockets, flying to the moon, and the solar system.

The summer story time is free to every child and one accompanying adult. The story time will last approximately thirty minutes, but those attending are encouraged to tour the museum afterwards.

The museum is holding their story time in conjunction with the Weatherford Library’s summer events and encourages everyone to attend both activities.

“This is a perfect event to bring your kids to for a fun educational outing,” said Stafford Air and Space Museum Marketing Coordinator Brandi Rizzi.


By | 2014-07-23T16:46:25+00:00 June 25th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Museum to Host Summer Story Time

Flown Flags Featured on Flag Day at SASM

This Saturday the Stafford Air and Space Museum will be featuring, for the first time, the flown flags in its collection.  Check out this blog insert from our Director!

There is nothing more symbolic of the technological greatness of the United States than a photo of an American astronaut with a U.S. flag on their shoulder. Yet, as strange as it sounds, it would not be until the eighth U.S. space mission – the flight of Gemini 4 in June, 1965 – before an astronaut would wear the stars and stripes on their shoulder.  Every astronaut since has proudly worn a U.S. flag.

The crew of Gemini 4 also began a tradition of personally carrying aboard their spacecraft a small number of copies of the flags sewn on their space suits as souvenirs of the mission.  After the flight, the astronauts would often present these small, flown flags to family, friends, politicians, and space program officials in gratitude for their support.

Since Gemini 4, every astronaut crew has made it a priority to carry small packets of not only U.S. flags, but also those of the 50 states and various countries, for post flight presentations that included the President and other heads of state.  So rare were these flags, though, only the most important and deserving were fortunate to receive them.

The Stafford Air & Space Museum has in its collection fourteen of these rare flown flags that were carried aboard various American and Russian space missions.  About half of these flags were carried by General Stafford aboard his four space missions, and the remaining flags were presented to him by various astronaut and cosmonaut crews out of respect for the extraordinary role he has played in the development of manned space flight.

By | 2017-08-11T04:13:30+00:00 June 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Flown Flags Featured on Flag Day at SASM

I Believe…

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” – President John F. Kennedy.

By | 2015-04-01T19:28:55+00:00 June 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on I Believe…

Field Trips in Full Swing

CESThe Stafford Air and Space Museum launched full steam ahead into school field trip season in mid April as they welcomed over 250 Burcham Elementary first graders, with more students scheduled to come throughout the month, the museum and its volunteers are ready to bring some space to its smaller visitors.

The excited little astronauts from Burcham were led by their commanders or their teachers rather, throughout the museum as they learned about the beginning of flight with the Wright Brothers and flew their mission further into the museum learning about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. They ended their day with lunch outside at the museum’s courtyard.

“Having the Weatherford students at the museum fills it with such energy and enthusiasm. W e love being able to  tell the story of General Stafford and his career to the students,” said Museum Marketing Coordinator Brandi Rizzi.

Each year the Burcham Elementary brings its students to the museum to learn about Weatherford native, General Thomas P. Stafford. Every Weatherford Public School student has year-round free admission to the museum.

“What an incredible opportunity for our young students”, said Burcham Elementary first grade teacher Kelly Schamburg on her group’s visit to the museum.

“The opportunity to learn about General Stafford through the video at the beginning of our field trip made the museum so much more interesting and intriguing for the students.  The contents of the museum are just unbelievable.  I would guess that this museum provides a far greater experience than is available in most big cities.  The planetarium experience was great, as well.  It was an awesome way to help our students gain a better understanding of the planets in our solar system,” said Shamburg.

If anyone is interested in scheduling a field trip to the museum contact Sharon Butcher at 580-772-5871.





By | 2017-08-11T04:13:30+00:00 May 7th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Field Trips in Full Swing

Museum Celebrates Yuri’s Night and Apollo 13


Sitting quietly in the dimmed light, guests of the Stafford Air and Space Museum had a unique experience Saturday night. Seated between two historic spacecraft, guests witnessed one of the greatest missions NASA ever conducted: the rescue of Apollo 13.

Seated just next to the colossal Titan II rocket, first used as a weapon in the cold war then turned into the launch catalyst for the Gemini program,  and a full scale Apollo Command and Service Module, which carried Americans to the moon, guests were treated to a night at the movies unlike no other.

The event began with Museum Director Max Ary welcoming nearly 150 guests to the museum’s third event in its lecture series “Stories at the Stafford.” In his welcome to the guests, Ary unveiled the huge Apollo Command and Service and Module, the newest major acquisition for the museum.

The Apollo spacecraft was the three-manned vehicle that was capable of meeting President Kennedy’s goal of landing on the moon, and that won the great “Space Race” for the U.S. General Stafford flew two Apollo’s into space, including one to the moon during the Apollo 10 mission.  During this mission, Stafford was the first to fly the Lunar Module spacecraft into orbit around the moon, and to fly down within 50,000 feet of the lunar surface.  The mission paved the way for Apollo 11 to make the first lunar landing in July, 1969.  Stafford would later fly the last Apollo into space during his historic Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975 – the first international space flight conducted between two old Cold War enemies, the Soviet Union and the United States. 

Ary then introduced co-hosts of the evening, the Oklahoma Space Alliance who was there to celebrate “Yuri’s Night.”  He introduced OSA President Stephen Swift who shared information with guests about OSA, its purpose, and the importance of future space exploration. Swift also explained the reasoning behind Yuri’s Night – a global celebration held in honor of the past, present, and future of space exploration.

“’Yuri’s Night’ is named after Yuri Gagarin who in 1961 became the first human launched into space. With this celebration, we salute the pioneers in space and we embrace humanity’s future in space: exploring, discovering, and living in orbit and on new worlds.”

Preceding the showing of the movie “Apollo 13,” Ary provided the audience with many background stories about the making of the film, as well as the actual mission.  Ary was the chief technical advisor on the film, and worked closely with director Ron Howard in the film’s production.   Numerous actual artifacts from the museum’s collection were shown to prepare the audience to what actually happened during the mission that led to a fuel cell oxygen tank exploding, crippling the spacecraft, and nearly stranding the astronauts in space.  An actual oxygen tank and fuel cell, exactly like the ones involved in the explosion, were shown to explain what happened. 

With Ary’s detailed explanation of the mission setting the stage, the lights were dimmed and the music filled the gallery as the Academy Award winning -movie took over the evening. During the film, certain facts were displayed upon one of the panels of the Apollo Spacecraft for the guests to read regarding various scenes in the movie. One interesting fact was the Chief of Astronauts during the Apollo 13 mission was Tom Stafford, who demanded the Lunar Module be immediately powered up to be used as a “lifeboat” after the Command Module had to be shut-down following the explosion in its Service Module.  Other facts featured were the identification of Oklahomans and SWOSU graduates who were involved with Mission Control during Apollo 13 such as John Aaron and museum member and guest Tom Weichel.

Following the movie, guests asked Ary numerous questions about the movie production and the Apollo 13 mission. 

The museum plans to conduct another “Stories at the Stafford” early this fall.


By | 2017-08-11T04:13:30+00:00 April 15th, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Museum Celebrates Yuri’s Night and Apollo 13

Stafford Museum and Oklahoma Space Alliance Co-Host Next Event


The Stafford Air and Space Museum and the Oklahoma Space Alliance, a chapter of the National Space Society (NSS) will join forces to celebrate a night of space exploration on Saturday, April 12 beginning at 7pm.

 The museum and OSA will be co-hosting the second “Stories at the Stafford” event of the year with the saga of the Apollo 13 mission, and showing the movie “Apollo 13” in its entirety, in conjunction with the grand opening of the museum’s newest full scale high-fidelity exhibit, the Apollo spacecraft. In addition the museum and OSA will co-host Yuri’s Night, which is an international celebration to honor space exploration accomplishments. It is named after Yuri Gagarin, who on April 12, 1961, became the first human to be launched into space.  

“Oklahoma Space Alliance looks eagerly forward to sharing this event at the Stafford Air and Space Museum, one of America’s great air and space museums,” said OSA President Stephen Swift. “Lieutenant General Thomas P. Stafford is one of America’s pioneers in space. The museum, with its displays, artifacts, and information is the ideal location for the Yuri’s Night celebration.”

April 12, marks the 53rd anniversary of Gagarin’s spaceflight. It also signifies the 33rd anniversary of the inaugural launch of NASA’s Space Shuttle. Both events are celebrated at Yuri’s Night, while promoting its goal of increasing public interest of space flight, exploration and inspiring new generations. In 2013, Yuri’s Night was celebrated at over 350 events in 57 countries.

The event marks the second “Story” at the museum for the year. The presentation of Apollo 13 is scheduled specifically for the month of April because the mission took place in April. Apollo 13 launched on April 11, 1970 and safely landed in the South Pacific Ocean on April 17, 1970. It was called the “successful failure” as it didn’t result in the third scheduled lunar landing, but has often been heralded as one of NASA’s greatest moments.

Museum Director Max Ary will share the story of the miraculous mission and how he assisted movie director Ron Howard in creating the Academy Award winning film. Ary was the Chief Technical Advisor for the film, and worked closely with Howard and actors Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton to ensure the most accurate depiction of the actual mission. 

“We are very excited to be partnering with the OSA in this next event.” said Marketing Coordinator Brand Rizzi. “This will be a fun evening for everyone. Being able to come together to celebrate some of the best moments in our space exploration history is an honor and we are happy to share this with our members and everyone in Oklahoma.”

The event will be free to current museum members and $7 to non-members. SWOSU students receive $2 admission with proof of student ID.  The event will take place inside the museum in front of the Titan II rocket and next to the new Apollo Spacecraft. Refreshments will be served.

For more information about the OSA and Yuri’s Night go to http://chapters.nss.org/ok/osanss.html or http://yurisnight.net/#/home.



By | 2017-08-11T04:13:30+00:00 April 2nd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Stafford Museum and Oklahoma Space Alliance Co-Host Next Event

Four Reasons to Visit the Museum in 2014

Have you had enough of being snowed in? Looking for something different to do this year for spring break? Need a road trip or just somewhere to get your family out of the house for a bit? Here are four fantastic reasons to visit the museum in 2014.

1. Affordable family outing – The admission prices to the museum are cheaper than going to the movies, water parks, or even activity centers. At prices starting at only $7 for adults, families can afford to bring their kids and their friends with them. Mention a membership with AAA and the adult price comes down to $5. Veterans, senior citizens and large groups also receive the discounted admission price of $5. Students 5 years to 18 years old are only $2! And if you’re under 5 years of age you’re free. Are you on your way yet?

2. New Exhibits – This year the museum will be debuting new exhibits from a broad range of the space era. Already underway and nearly finished is the latest full scale replica joining the museum’s already stellar collection of such exhibits: The Apollo. The Apollo is a full scale high fidelity replica of an actual Apollo spacecraft as it appeared on its trajectory path to the moon. Weighing in at over 6,000lbs, the replica is built of wood and metal,  is 30’ long and nearly 13’ in diameter. It features a hatch door and command module accentuating the human element to the craft. The Apollo space craft carried over 30 American Astronauts, including Weatherford’s own, General Thomas P. Stafford, who flew two Apollo spacecrafts. 

The museum will open another new gallery in 2014 of the Hubble COSTAR (Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement). The COSTAR developed by many NASA engineers (including General Stafford) and staff spent 11 months preparing a mission to send the COSTAR to the Hubble to correct its defect in its mirror, obscuring its camera for images of space. After the one week job on the Hubble by shuttle astronauts, the repair was a success. Now all instruments placed on the Hubble have built in corrective optics for any future mishaps and the COSTAR is no longer needed. The Stafford Air and Space Museum was able to obtain it in 2013 and will have it on display by the second half of the year.

And yet another exhibit going up this year is the return of the beloved F-104 Starfighter jet that once sat outside on the Historic Route 66 highway and runs right through the heart of Weatherford. The Starfighter was removed and replaced with the sleek F-4 Phantom Fighter Jet in 2012. The F-104 received a complete restoration including a sharp paint job bringing it back to a ready-to-fly glow. The F-104 will be mounted erect directly in front of the museum’s entrance doors and will be visible to drivers on Rt. 66 and Interstate 40. This concept was designed by General Stafford and plans are to have it in place by late spring.

3. If reasons one and two aren’t enough to get you out the door, then try this: Oklahoma Strong. The Stafford Air and Space Museum is the only museum in Oklahoma dedicated to one of the eight astronauts that hail from our great state.  Gordon Cooper, Fred Haise, Stuart Allen Roosa, Owen Garriott, William Pogue, Shannon Lucid, and John Herrington have flown space missions, making Oklahoma the only state to have astronauts in every American Manned Space Mission. Ranging from the first mission with the Mercury “Original 7” to the recently retired Space Shuttle missions, Oklahomans have made their mark in the space industry. Interestingly enough, Weatherford’s Southwestern Oklahoma State University is the home of many stars of the mission control staff, including the most famous, John Aaron. Aaron is credited with the saving of Apollo 11, 12, and 13 missions. The state of Oklahoma can call itself a true space pioneer.

4. Size is surprising – Located on Route 66, the museum serves as a fun attraction for Route 66 visitors from around the world. Based on its appearance outside, the metal building appears to be small. Walking into the lobby visitors might think “okay this is it”. But after being greeted by friendly staff, visitors soon realize there is more than meets the eye. Following the entrance into the museum, you are introduce into the life of General Stafford featuring his memorabilia from childhood to retirement. Then you glide into the breathtaking Wright Flyer exhibit and suddenly lose track of time and a sense of where you are inside the building. Following the path, the adventure begins with the development of flight soaring through the Bleriot airplane and the Curtiss D Pusher and into the Spirit of St. Louis. Just in passing of the Spirit of St. Louis you are transported into early rocketry with a full scale Sputnik and Explorer I, not to mention the giant F-1 engine staring at you with its funnel lit in red. Still entranced, visitors then fly into the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle Galleries. Truth be told, the museum is more than an acre of exhibit space. But the outside can tease you, hiding its size and saving if for only those who venture in.

Always delighting its visitors, the museum is a welcoming retreat, as they can submerse themselves into a captivating and enthralling experience of aerospace history, leaving exhilarated and inspired of a time when we dared to dream.



By | 2017-08-11T04:13:30+00:00 March 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Four Reasons to Visit the Museum in 2014