Moon Rock to be Awarded to Apollo-Soyuz Astronaut Thomas Stafford
NASA presented its first Ambassador of Exploration Award to former astronaut Gene Cernan, who commanded the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission, during a May 12, 2005 ceremony at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. The award features a piece of moon rock and will remain on display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
Credit: NASA.

NASA will award Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford with the Ambassador of Exploration Award at a ceremony attended by the astronaut's surviving Apollo- Soyuz Test Project Russian and American crewmates. The presentation will be hosted by the Stafford Air and Space Museum in Weatherford, Oklahoma on July 12.

The award, which will feature a segment of moon rock recovered during the Apollo 17 mission, will remain the property of NASA. It will be placed on public display at the Stafford museum, alongside the astronaut's Annapolis class ring and his Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Thomas Stafford flew on Gemini 6, the first rendezvous mission between two manned spacecraft, and Gemini 9; orbited the moon on Apollo 10, and commanded the U.S. command module that docked in orbit with a Soviet craft during the Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Joining Stafford for the moon rock presentation will be cosmonauts Alexei Leonov and Valery Kubasov of the Soyuz crew and Vance Brand, who flew aboard Apollo. Deke Slayton, the third American ASTP crew member passed away on July 12, 1993.

The award ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. in Weatherford.

As an Ambassador of Exploration, Stafford will help the space agency convey the benefits of space exploration and work to inspire students to pursue careers in science, mathematics and engineering.

The Ambassador of Exploration Award was announced last July during the 35th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. It recognizes the sacrifices and dedication of the Apollo, Gemini and Mercury veterans.

Each astronaut or their surviving family will be presented with a lunar sample, part of the 842 pounds of moon rock and soil returned during the six moon landings from 1969 to 1972. CBS anchor Walter Cronkite is also an honoree.

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